Categories
ambient classical

Jan Wagner – Kapitel

The early days of spring combined with solitude are perfectly expressed by Kapitel, the second album by Jan Wagner. Wagner lives and works in Berlin. He produced releases on the Berghain Ost Gut record label in the Faust Studio Scheer. In 2018 he released Nummern, a beautiful album full of ambient based on piano improvisations. This second one isn’t that different. Wagner is doing what he does best.

That is finding the beautiful spots in-between: piano chords that blend into a lingering sound, the sounds of the mechanics of the piano. Even surrounding sounds in the studio. That way of working gives his music a feel that is so familiar in ambient and a lot of electronic music. Harmony and even melody fade in a blur of non-distinctive sounds. The result is beautiful.

Wagner combines his skill as a pianist and musician with his experience as an electronic music producer. Using his piano improvisations as a basis to build new sound structures. On Kapitel this approach leads to stunning ambient that opens up space for the listener to fill in. Like in ‘Kapital 27’, one of the longest tracks on the album, where dominant piano chords are drowned in a pool of ecstatic sounds that keep building up.

Music that makes you blissfully happy while being lonely.

Kapitel by Jan Wagner is released on Quiet Love Label.

Categories
electronic

Maushaund – We’ll Meet Again

Remember when back in the second half of the 1990s trip-hop turned into lounge? We really needed that. We unconsciously knew things were bad and would become worse, but without a clue to fix the situation, the best thing to do was to turn away and create this fantastic, optimistic, metropolitan way of living (or at least the soundtrack to that). Gave us some damn good music, right? Remember Tosca, Kruder & Dorfmeister and St. Germain?

Back then, lounge wasn’t new. Every period of time before a big change has its own variant. Maybe Maushaund is leading a new lounge explosion. The Rotterdam based audiovisual artist Bart Kalkman just released his We’ll Meet Again EP on the Smikkelbaard record label from Leiden.

The lo-fi video for ‘Escape’ is a cool hint to the current lock-down situation in The Netherlands. His new EP is his first step into down-tempo and sounds really lo-fi. Works well because of the introvert, amateur-like feel it gives. The songs are quite short (around three minutes), much like the other much faster 8-bit breakbeat stuff he is producing normally as DJ Maushaund (a reference to his art studio called Muishond). You can find them on his Soundcloud.

The lengths of this EP is problematic if you want to use it as the soundtrack for your forced isolation, but you can always repeat it a couple of hundred times so the songs blend together in this nice, cosy, formless, happy feel of letting go all your worries. That’s lounge all about, isn’t?

We’ll Meet Again by Haushaund is released by Smikkelbaard and available via Bandcamp.

Categories
electronic film pop

Hunter Complex – Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

Yesterday evening Hunter Complex streamed a live show from his studio to promote his new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees. The performance showed the difference between this fourth one and the others: Hunter Complex is in control.

That sounds cryptic, doesn’t it?

Let me explain.

Lars Meijer started out as an ambient electronic music producer. He co-founded the influential Narrominded record label in Haarlem and debuted in 2009 as Hunter Complex with the 80s oriented electropop mini-album ‘Here is the Night’. References were Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and Japan. Since then, Hunter Complex evolved in a much more sophisticated blend of different 70s and 80s styles of synthesizer-driven music, ranging from bubblegum pop to yacht rock, electro-pop to film soundtracks. Along the way, Meyer stopped using vocals.

Last years Open Sea was a blend of sultry, intelligent and bittersweet pop music. It was, as Simon Reynolds would call it, music that misremembers the 80s. A, no the best soundtrack for a rerun of Miami Vice in 2019. The album is a monument of desire for a decade in which everybody believed in a better future.

His new album Dead Calm and Zero Degrees sounds different: the longing for a past that never existed is gone. Instead, the album is a soundtrack for an alternative reality that isn’t so much rooted in the 70s, 80s or 90s. One aspect is the way Meijer uses analogue and digital synthesizers from all those decades interchangeably. But that isn’t the essence. His music could still sound aesthetically like the 80s, right?

Well, it doesn’t.

His performance last night showed a remarkable difference with previous shows. Instead of playing with classic movies from the 70s and 80s on the background, Lars played the movies on the foreground, him infiltrating in the images themselves as a spectre haunting them. Maybe you’ll think it is far fetched, but for me, that is a huge turning point in Hunter Complex’s aesthetics: instead of being haunted by the spectres of the past, Hunter Complex now haunts the spectres. That’s the control part I mentioned earlier.

Hence, there is no nostalgia anymore in this new work. Meyer has found a way to use all kinds of sounds and tropes from the past to come up with something that is 2020 at its core: a post-nostalgic ambient synthpop masterpiece.

Dead Calm and Zero Degrees by Hunter Complex is released by Burning Witches Records.

[Move your mouse over the image and click to play]

Categories
rock

Lewsberg – In This House

The indie-rock scene in The Netherlands is thriving, especially near the west coast of Holland. The Rotterdam based band Lewsberg debuted in 2018 on Subroutine. This second long-player is self-released. Things didn’t change much. In This House is an uncomfortable collection of minimalistic indie songs. And I love it.

The band is named after Robert Loesberg, a Dutch poet and writer that was part of De Zestigers, a group of artists coming of age in the late sixties. Loesberg wrote poems for the magazine Bijster, columns for the infamous Propria Cures (a radical Amsterdam student magazine) and published one novel – Enige Defecten. Loesberg was highly talented but struggled with addiction, anti-social behaviour and life in general. He died at 46 in his house in The Hague.

The music of Lewsberg sounds like to soundtrack to Loesberg’s life. It’s minimalistic, a tiny bit out-of-tune, rushed and in way unfinished. The lyrics are tiny masterpieces, more spoken than sung with a deliberate accent, about the ordinary things in life. Musically Lewsberg draws from Velvet Underground, early The Modern Lovers, Television and Japan.

But in essence, Lewsberg embodies a typical Dutch feeling that is also manifest in a lot of Dutch literature, from Slauerhoff to W.F. Hermand and early Joost Zwagermans to Thomas van Aalten: having absolutely no fucking clue what you are (supposed to be) doing.

I love Lewsberg.

[Move your mouse over the image and click to play]

Categories
electronic

Burial Grid – Negative Space

Negative Space is meant to be the soundtrack to the same-titled new horror novel by B.R. Yeager, but it also serves as an uncanny musical representation of the current Covid-19 crisis. The novel also serves as a nice distraction. While we are in social isolation in The Netherlands, reading a book instead of watching a Netflix series brings more peace and produces another kind of distraction.

To be honest, I’ve only read the first few pages of Negative Space, but I like it and I am curious about the way the story will unfold. The novel follows four friends who are while struggling with a small-town suicide epidemic, drawn to WHORL, a synthetic hallucinogen that brings them into contact with ghosts. Love to finish the novel.

Meanwhile, the soundtrack by Burial Grid does a good job as ambient for my temporary home office. Although Adam Michael Kozak calls it ‘horrorsynths’, his compositions (all between three and six minutes) range from dark ambient to synth-drones with film music tropes (Jong Carpenter, anyone?). While sounding uncanny and dark, Kozak’s music also leaves a lot of room for personal interpretation. His production is light like the music is floating on air. It brings to life the ghosts that play an important part in the novel.

The open sound benefits from Kozak’s recording setup: his studio is filled with analogue en digital equipment. Besides a Kurzweil K2000, Korg MS20, Minilogue and Wavestation, Roland TR-8 and Waldorf Blofeld, he also uses field recordings to help shape his sound. It gives Negative Space that lively touch, situating you as a listener in the music: there is no escape.

Nice detail: if you buy Negative Space at Burial Grid’s Bandcamp the money will be donated to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy Covid-19 Relief Fund.

[Move your mouse over the image and click to play]

Negative Space, the soundtrack, is released on Burial Grid’s Bandcamp. The novel Negative Space is published by Apocalypse Party.

Categories
electronic

Jordan GCZ – Space Songs EP

One of my favourite techno acts of the past two decades is Juju & Jordash. The two producers from Amsterdam possess the ability to make new music sound like old, and old music like new in a way that the result always has that authentic vibe. Their live-sets are amongst the best I’ve had experienced in my thirty-year life as electronic music adept/raver. Making them the poster boys od Dekmantel.

Both are also producing solo material. While Gal Aner (Juju) is working together with others a lot, Jordan Czamanski is quite busy as Jordan GCZ releasing a new 12″ at least every year. His style is in line with that of Juju & Jordash: open, lush, raw.

Jordan has the ability to strip music to its essence: a beat, a loop, a synth melody. That is the start of all his tracks. By adding new layers he is adding more soul and emotions. Perfection isn’t a goal here: his music always had this imperfect, raw vibe.

Space Song EP, released on the Future Times label based in Washington DC, is no exception. The five songs on this release embody the essence of techno: feel one with the machine. The ten minutes of ‘Half-Time’ lead the way: this is techno that is not trapped in a space-time vacuum but just is. The lushness of the beats, dominant open bassline, meandering synths: this is what techno embodies. Electronic music doesn’t get any better.

[Move your mouse over the image to play]

Space Song EP by Jordan GCZ will be released by Futures Times on April 3rd.

Categories
electronic

Graham Dunning – Reach Into Time

To be honest, Reach Into Time isn’t the best representation of Graham Dunning’s musical catalogue, but it reflects his way of working and his values towards craftsmanship well.

Dunning has released a lot of electronic music on different labels and teaches experimental sound art at the Mary Ward Centre in London. He experiments with sounds, hardware, software, instruments and locations. For instance: the basis for the piece ‘Windchange’ is recorded inside the top of a 100-year-old windmill in Harplinge, Sweden, during a rainstorm and a change in the wind direction. Dunning enhanced the recording and released it earlier this year on Something About Still Trying. The title track is based on a mobile phone recording taken on a coach. Glocken – released last year, but recorded in 2018 – he worked with a turntable and modified records.

Reach Into Time is a collection of live coding performances Dunning did. Instead of using pre-set software, Dunning is coding the music bit by bit on the spot. A wonderful, creative way to stay close to the essence of rave: machine and men merging in one. Failure can be part of the process: one mistyped letter or symbol and the sequence is broken.

Without this background knowledge, Reach Into Time still sounds like a refreshing collection of old school techno, breakbeat and electro, close to the fragile sound of the best years of rave culture. The limitations of the machine are the key here, giving a much more authentic sound than Fruityloops will ever be able to deliver.

The cassette tape comes in a beautifully designed cover. There are still a few left here.

Make sure to check Dunning’s Boiler Room performance in 2016 out. It is magical and a must-watch for everybody into experimental electronic dance music. It’s over here.

[Move your mouse over the image to play]

Reach Into Time by Graham Dunning is released by SØVN Records.

Categories
electronic

Sounds from the Rocking Chair

One of the coolest and most interesting labels from Amsterdam is already going strong for over a decade: Moving Furniture is a haven for qualitative experimental, mostly digital music.

The back catalogue is impressive: most known experimental composers and musicians in The Netherlands released their music on the label. Owner Sietse van Erve is a key figure in Amsterdam’s experimental electronic music scene.

It isn’t easy to keep up such an effort in the current musical landscape. A lot of labels are struggling and have a difficult time. At the end of last year, Van Erve announced a successful crowdfunding campaign. He also asked musicians for help. This compilation is the result. Twentyfour musicians contributed to Sounds from the Rocking Chair. Most of them teamed up in pairs and composed new music dedicated to the campaign.

The result is one of the coolest compilations of mostly Dutch experimental electronics. Resulting in over sixty minutes of cutting-edge ambient, noise, drones, modular synthesizers, modern classical and mixtures of all of these genres. Making Sounds from the Rocking Chair also an excellent introduction into the world of Moving Furniture.

Personal favourites? The ice-cold collaboration between Radboud Mens and BJ Nilsen, and the gloomy ‘Piano Music Redux’ by Freiband and Orphax (label owner Van Erve himself). But every track on this compilation is worth a listen.

The successful crowdfunding already led to a beautiful release by Tongues of Mount Meru. Make sure to check it out on Bandcamp.

[Move your mouse over the image to play]

Sounds from the Rocking Chair is released by Moving Furniture.