‘I hear myself breathing and panting, the scraping sound of the piano’s action and the creaking of my wooden floorboards – all equally as loud as the music. The music becomes a contingency, a chance, an accident within all this rustling. My heart opens and I wonder what exactly it is that makes me feel so happy.’ – Nils Frahn
Hailed as neomodernism; the soft repetitive sound of Nils Frahm and his antique piano is as beautiful as the likes of Goldmund or Eluvium. I bought his LP Felt (2011) a couple of months ago after discovering his music on Erased Tapes website – which by the way is a fantastic source of ambient and classical music.
The first track I heard of his was called Familiar which was an instant hit for me. The organic sounds reminded of Helios‘ track Dragonfly Across An Ancient Sky. I especially like the irregular breaths of air Nils takes as he plays, It brings a realism to it and draws you in, as if you where watching him play the piece right before you.
His newly released track, Says conjures a slightly different sound to his usual piano based compositions. An electronic backdrop is created for this piece, which sets a slightly eerie and futuristic atmosphere, while the soft pattering of the piano makes itself known sparingly throughout the piece. The sci-fi sound is unexpected of Nils Frahn, but works so damn well.
Sweeping, cinematic, vibrant, beautiful, epic, delicate, bold, calm, majestic. It’s pretty easy to roll off a list of adjectives for this absolutely wonderful record as Rhian Sheehan returns with the impossibly beautiful and uncompromisingly compelling Stories from Elsewhere. Continue reading →
I’ve recently been revisiting some of my favorite ambient artists and making some new discoveries. I thought I’d do a little roundup of what I’ve been daydreaming to for the last week.
Rhian Sheehan & Helios
Keith Kenniff AKA Helios released an album of his previously released songs that have been remixed by a variety of artists. Halving The Compass is one of my all time favourite Helios tracks, and was recently remixed by Rhian Sheehan, an award winning musician from New Zealand. Rhian Sheehan put the ambient scene in awe with his 2008 album, Standing in Silence. I genuinely can’t think of a better composer to remix this track. The pacing and intimate sounds of the piano are perfect.
I started compiling this playlist for a friend, but then realized I hadn’t posted for some time and so I thought I’d share it here too. What I’ve got here, (besides a couple of tracks) is a mix of new music I’ve found while sifting through blogs and music sites.
A band from LA, they’re slowly on the rise, give them a year and they’ll touring the states, and hopefully Europe. It’s feel good electronic, indie shoe-gaze goodness. I’ve been enjoying pretty much all their releases.
I dug and found gold with this guy, he’s from Czech Republic even though he sounds very American. I love this track, it’s part of a series from his EP that all seem to be about childhood. His album is free, and it’s very good.
I don’t even know how I found this guy, but his music is really enjoyable. It comes from an album called, you never wanted me. I believe the artist is from Saskatoon, Ca. The low-fi recordings really do add to the atmosphere of his music.
This girl is pretty well-known around the blogs, and I believe made an appearance in the charts. She’s got some nice music vids, one directed by Spike Jonze. I love her voice, and even though this is a pretty sad song, It takes you on an ‘enjoyable’ journey I think.
An American artist from Oakland, described as Dub/Folk. This track is super chilled and builds nicely, it sounds like it was recorded in a barn after a good party. It’s been on repeat for a while on my iPod.
A folk band from Seattle. This track comes from their album called, The Bread Maker’s Blues. I think it’s the plucking and soft vocals that makes this track fun to listen to. Reminds me a bit of Herman Dune’s stuff.
I love duets, XX are a good example, and these guys execute this song so nicely. This is an alternate version of their song, Gone The Bells, which they released on Soundcloud, I actually prefer it to the original. The dreamy guitar and bells sound beaut.
These guys have an EP on Bandcamp which you can ‘name your price for’. They’re working on a full length album which looks promising as this song demonstrates a lot of talent. They say they’ve taken a lot inspiration from Mumford and Sons, personally i think they sound better.
He’s known as ‘Australia’s Iron & Wine’, Grand Salvo has a knack of writing original songs about everyday observations. This is a song that triumphs on its simplicity. You might find you won’t take in the lyrics until the 3rd or 4th time since the acoustic instruments glide through your ears so gracefully.
Time to pick up the tempo, this is another boy/girl duet. For me this is Edward Sharpe and XX mixed together. Of Monsters and Men is a 6 piece band from Iceland. This track is from their EP that was released in 2011, they’re currently working on bringing out a full album. They’re one to keep an eye on I feel.
I first heard of this artist back in 2007 when he released a single called Mango Tree with his half-sister, Julia. Definitely check out the song if you don’t know it. This track comes from his new album, Broken Brights, I hadn’t really been following his solo venture, so this album came to be a nice surprise.
One of my all time favourite instrumental/ambient artists. He’s usually playing in my car during long drives through the countryside. literally love everything he produces, and somehow i missed this track from his last album, which resulted in a nice surprise.
Tallest Man on Earth hit the ground running with his 2008 debut album Shallow Grave and has been impressing fans and critiques since. This track comes from his newest album There’s no Leaving Now. It’s my favourite on the album – and no, he’s not putting on a Bob Dylan voice….
I’ve started to spot adverts around London for Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave. They’re a British band and have been gathering a lot of hype with their indie/electronic sound. I’m not gonna say I heard them before they got big because I don’t think I did. They’re playing at End of Road Festival this year which should be a treat.
Another of my favourite artists. I got to see Blackbird Blackbird play this year in the UK which was amazing. This guy constantly puts out great sounding music. This is one of his newest tracks, and it sounds like he’s far from losing his touch – nice one Mikey.
There are few albums that I would call truly beautiful, Helios’s Eingya and Gregor Samsa’s second full-length Rest spring to mind; and now, with Gem Club’s debut Breakers, Christopher Barnes, cellist Kristen Drymala and vocalist Leva Berberian have crafted quite simply one of the most systematically heartbreaking, haunting and outright beautiful albums to have graced my system in a long time and it can comfortably sit within that list.
There’s an unbelievable subtlety to this album, it’s got room to breathe and every note written sounds considered and then considered again. Stripped to a combination of rhythmic piano, calming vocals and brooding cello it can feel incredibly pure. I hesitate to say it verges on bleak with an almost melancholy feel. Go into this album in an optimistic mood and I’m sure you will take a different view compared to heading in full of pessimism.
It can be a worry with music similar to this that it comes across as a pretentious wash of sound but Gem Club manage to hold their focus and the songs here bleed with emotion. Pacing is key and although this may not be an album for every moment of the day it’s one that’s of little effort to listen to and at just shy of fourty minutes is the perfect length, never outstaying it’s welcome. Drums punctuate at the right moment and vocals soar when needed, it’s smart stuff and works very well.
Penultimate track 252 are where things really gather together and show what Gem Club can really do. It’s beautiful, a little friendlier and stands out strong on an album of already stellar tracks. The vocals lift and there’s a warmth that fills the sound that isn’t present prior.
It’s a difficult thing to review this album without listing a string of adjectives revolving around the word beauty but at it’s core this is what Breakers delivers. It was never going to be an album for every moment of the day and that’s ok; it’s an album to slip some headphones on and simply listen to. Don’t let this one fall into the background, it yearns to be heard properly.