Categories
classical

I-Wolf & Eduardo Raon – The Last Humppa

So, there is only one song. No album. The song is only 2.48. That’s right: 2.48. But I feel there is something magical going on here.

Here is the famous Casino Baumgarten in Vienna. The recording studio was renovated recently and brought back in the original state it was in in 1965. It probably is the only classical recording studio in the world that is still based mainly around original ’60s tube gear. The control room is still in its original condition from the second half of that decade — down to the tiniest of details, like the old telephones! The heart of the studio is a console that was built by WSW (Wiener Schwachstromwerke).

The Palace Baumgarten, close to the famous Palace Schönbrunn, was built in 1779. In 1892, a commissioned officer’s mess (‘Casino’) was integrated into the building, and the large hall, which would later become the studio’s biggest live room, was also built in this era. The beautiful main hall serves as a venue for concerts and other cultural events.

I-Wolf and Eduardo Raon use the acoustics of the ballroom as a third instrument. The other two? Piano and harp. They are not only played in the classical sense: both musicians use the instrument as percussion, alter the sounds and distort them in every possible way. The compositions are the result of live improvisations. There is no post-production.

I-Wolf is Wolfgang Schlögl who is active in the Vienna music scene since the mid-80s. In 1996 he founded the band Sofa Surfers and was one of the important producers in the famous Vienna lounge and downtempo scene. Since a couple of years, he is more and more involved in theatre music and composing for productions.

Eduardo Raon started in the late 90s as a harpist and not only works in the field of improvised new music, but also in pop and jazz. He is the resident harpist for Slovenska Kinoteka (Slovenien Cinemateque) for whom he composes and performs soundtracks for numerous films.

This project is the first collaboration between the two. In a way, it merges the loungy jazzy feel of Schlögl influence and the more emotional and melancholic touch added by Raon. ‘The Last Humppa’ is beautiful, but way too short. The video by Video by Georg Eggenfellner and Jasmin Baumgartner adds another dimension.

For now, we have to wait for more.

Casino Baumgarten by I-Wolf & Eduardo Raon will be released by Seayou Records this fall.

Categories
electronic

Immediate Proximity – 2334

Imagine the coronavirus is here to stay and we don’t find a cure. In fact, it is mutating rapidly. We need to stay inside and keep a meter-and-a-half distance. After a few years, there are violent protests against the government enforcing the rules and we drift into a totalitarian state with killer drones roaming the streets.

I’m just imagining here, right.

Well, if we need a soundtrack for that future, 2334 will do just fine. It’s cold, metallic, dark and rough. With song titles like ‘Skynet Skanner’ and ‘Broken Ether’, it also hints to less attractive futures. When lived, because imagining those futures is part of the way we deal with uncertainty.

2334 is the debut by Immediate Proximity, the first musical collaboration between Diana Napirelly and Niels Luinenburg. We know Luinenburg as Delta Funktionen. He currently lives in Berlin and is resident at Tresor where he curates the ‘Let’s Watch UFOs’ nights. Napirelly is a dj based in Saint Petersburg. Both worked for over a year on 2334 in Luinenburg’s Berlin studio.

There are a lot of references to earlier work by Delta Funktionen, but Immediate Proximity lacks Luinenburg’s more playful, glitchy side. There is no escaping the directness of 2334. It’s a full-force kick in the stomach. Maybe that’s why the duo uses visual esthetics associated with 80s sci-fi to go with the album. It takes the edges of just a little bit.

The same playfulness is present in the way both producers describe their music: sci-fi tribalism. Hints to the core of techno culture (the tribe) and the lost future (sci-fi).

Musically, there is no escaping the machinery: this is as minimalistic as it gets. The beats punch like metal through glass, leaving no alternative than to go forward. The few tracks without beats are even more terrifying: steel-cold ambient for industrial wastelands. Opener ‘The Apocalyptic Cult’, driven by a dry sluggish beat, leads the way.

2334 forces you to submit to the cold and repetitive techno machine. In a way, it could be seen as a metaphor for the corona virus.

There is no escape, only submission.

Let’s hope 2334 will never become the soundtrack of our society. Meanwhile it is very pleasant to imagine it does.

Submit and enjoy.

2334 by Immediate Proximity is released by a Radio Matrix.

Categories
electronic

Nieuwe Electronische Waar #14

Third compilation in a row, I know. But this one (also) deserves attention.

The east of The Netherlands is an extremely fertile region if it comes to quality electronic music. One of the probably many factors of that success is the excellent infrastructure for talent development.

Seems kinda weird right, the local government subsidizing organizations to help and nourish young and talented artists? Well, it works. Then there is a tight network of clubs that program a lot of local talent. In cities like Deventer, Nijmegen and Arnhem, there is a vibrant electronic music scene.

This is already the 14th instalment of the Nieuwe Electronische Waar compilation and, like the other ones, it is released by the experimental record label Esc.rec. founded in 2004 by Harco Rutgers in Deventer. Cool label. Check it out.

To fill the compilation, there is a yearly competition. I used to be part of the selection committee way back when I still was a respected music journalist and the amount of good stuff coming in is astonishing. This edition is no exception. Eleven entries managed to earn a spot.

The range of styles on here is broad: dark trippy breaks (Mallard), headz (Fentom), atmospheric ambient electro (Presethead) and post-garage (Mingvs). As always there are some great entries and a couple that are okay and reveal how talented the artists are.

That’s the whole point. All participants are offered a diverse, broad and personal development program, supported by partners and coaches from the Dutch electronic music scene. Now, that’s something.

No wonder there is so much quality electronic music from the East of The Netherlands.

Nieuwe Electronische Waar #14 is released by Esc.rec..

Categories
ambient electronic pop

Velvet Desert Music #2

Another compilation. While I normally listen to podcasts and my own playlists when I’m on the move, being in quarantine at home makes me long for selections by others. Since I don’t like Spotify and Bandcamp still doesn’t offer a playlist option (what is wrong with you guys!?), I’ve been turning to compilations and mixes.

Now, the best compilations come from Kompakt. The record label from Cologne has some long-running series: Total, Pop, Ambient. The quality is always high. I love the label. It released some of the best electronic music tracks and my top 10 of best dance tracks ever is filled with Kompakt stuff. I wrote about them in 2013 in The Quietus (read it here).

But when they announced a new compilation series called Velvet Desert, I was sceptical. Desert? Really? I mean, I’ve lived in Cologne for a couple of years, and I still have a lot of different associations with the city. Desert isn’t one of them. Since I believed that Kompakt and Cologne are like ying and yang, I had a tough time figuring out how to fit in heat, drought and sand.

Well, I have this habit of overthinking stuff. Sorry about that.

With Velvet Desert, Kompakt wants to bring together contemporary electronic music that combines elements of rock, folk, country, surf, krautrock and psychedelics. Announcing the first edition, compiler Jörg Burger described the essence like this:

“Just think…from Sergio Leone to David Lynch, from Elvis in his deepest moments to Johnny Cash somewhere between amphetamine backlash and American Songs, from Hollywood Babylon to Hotel California, from Mulholland Drive to Paris, Texas. Served with a pinch of Tago Mago and Pink Floyd at Pompeii. Then you know exactly what Velvet Desert Music is about…”

Totally get Jörg’s idea, but I still had some concerns. That’s my flaw, sometimes I need some time to adjust to new situations.

With this second instalment, I’m ready to embrace Jörg’s concept, although I still think the music on this compilation would do a great job as the soundtrack for a space-age western. Music-wise, this collection of slow and electronic excursions into folk, krautrock, psychedelics and world music is really nice. Starting off with ‘Not So Far Away’ by Michael Mayer, a slow moody track with an incredible bass sound, it sets an atmosphere of detachment, submission and fernweh.

All of the fourteen entries are great, but the ones by Michael Mayer, Sascha Funke (dub blending with 80s guitar prog) and Lake Turner/WEM/Hand (the only faster song: sort of Neu!-like indie glam-rock) and Pluramon (what La Düsseldorf would sound like in 2020) are amazing.

Maybe the combination Kompakt, Köln and desert isn’t so strange after all.

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Velvet Desert Music #2, compiled by Jörg Burger, is released by Kompakt.

Categories
ambient electronic

Reality As A Stage Set

One of the many hidden gems in the Dutch landscape of pop music: Enfant Terrible. The website of the record label states: ‘Elitist Pop Culture since 2004’.

Is the label elitist?

Well, yes. In a way. Founder and owner Martijn van Gessel knows his niche, and he knows to use words well. In interviews, he states that the music he releases has nothing to do with nostalgia or retro, although many of them have a minimalistic feel that could be associated with those terms. Of course, Van Gessel is right: using instruments that have been around for a long time, doesn’t mean making old music.

Instead, Van Gessel uses terms like (post) industrial muzak and weird pop. He manages four labels to make sure he is able to provide a broad range: Enfant Terrible for the more electro wave and synth-pop stuff, and sub-labels Gooiland Elektro (more dance-oriented stuff), Vrystaete (music related to folklore, psychedelic, lo-fi/lo-tech and experiment), and Cabaret Curioux (for the weird stuff).

In the past 16 years, Van Gessel released a lot of albums in limited editions on vinyl and some of them on cd-r. This compilation is a collection of his favourite songs he released in the past few years. The tittle Reality As A Stage Set refers to the weird current situation:

“We conceive the world around as reality… as a solid state of being… but it is not… it is a stage set… a construct… a frame… a bubble in which we float…”

The collection reflects Van Gessel’s thoughts on the corona virus being able to make cracks in our static construction of the world. Reality as a simulation that doesn’t represent the real anymore. It’s a dark, minimalistic and sometimes rough journey through eleven releases. The compilations ends with the beautiful, distant ambient elektropop of 11 RADKO.

Have a listen, download the compilation if you like, order some cool 7″, 11″ or 12″ at Enfant Terrible’s website, and visit the individual Bandcamp pages of the artists.

And, as Van Gessel puts it, take “a moment of recognition […] for contemplation… sit back… think…read… listen to music…”

Reality As A Stage Set is released by Enfant Terrible.

Categories
pop rock

My Friend Peter – Speak

The first thing I thought when I heard ‘Whitening’, the first single from Speak? This is the best pop song in years! And after I tried to put my emotions into intelligent words (I’m a former snobby music journalist after all): ‘Whitening’ is the hybrid baby of early 80s Rush and Talk Talk. Okay, with a little bit of 70s prog rock during the break. And a bit of Gary Numan.

Well, that sounds great, doesn’t it? The best period of Rush meets Talk Talk, one of the best pop gems ever. And it really sounds like that, won’t you agree?

Meet Benedikt Brands from Graz in Austria. A multi-instrumentalist and musical talent on so many levels. He plays in the High Brain, a psychedelic rock band. My Friend Peter is his solo project. He debuted in 2014 with Take A Look On The Other Side, a psychedelic pop album influenced by the 60s. Pink Floyd and Beatles aren’t far away on his second effort Entre les Trous de la Mémoire (2015) and the third one Is It Severe? (2016).

Nice albums, but the first weird pop tunes – blending different styles, taking influences from all kind of genres – are present on In Between (2017). The brilliant ‘Kraut in the Kitchen’ for example, where Benedikt blends krautrock with 60s beat, groovy funk-jazz and popcorn. Absolutely mental.

But Speak is on a different level. Because of a lot of different things. The sound of the bass, being one of them. That could be the most important, because it holds this album together. Benedikt searches for so many different takes on psychedelic pop music on this album that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of common ground. But then there is the bass. There is always the bass. Groovy, a bit funky. Always there. The bass.

That isn’t a surprise. His father is a double-bass player in a symphonic orchestra, his mother is a violin teacher. Benedikt plays nearly all instruments on Speak, recorded the album in his home studio, mixed it in Rio Studios, Vienna. Robert Neubauer did the mastering at Robotonstudio in Vienna. I was talking about a lot of different things that make this album brilliant? The warm, fuzzy production is also one of them.

Then there are the insane songs, their structure, melody, breaks. Single ‘Whitening’ isn’t the only jawbreaking song. ‘Intermission/Transition’ could have easily been an ultracool Stereolab song. The 10-minute pop song ‘Music to Go Anywhere’ is funky as hell (that bass!) and reminds me of the more psychedelic side of Blur.

Excellent tunes. Great album. Please make ‘Whitening’ the summer pop hit of 2020.

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Speak by My Friend Peter is released by Numavi Records.

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.