New writing

Newer articles and reviews. Sometimes full, sometimes an excerpt and a link.

New The Revenant (soundtrack) review

My review of the Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner soundtrack for The Revenant has been posted over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.

For the most part, there’s a kind of ascetic, restrained feeling, a mirror to the film’s harsh, cold setting. There’s hints of single-fiddle folk-tunes, dragged out to contemplative, almost-stopped lengths, but there’s more fulsome moments, too. The ‘Killing Hawk’ cue mines the emotive vein popularised by Arvo Part – indeed, some of the string prods are reminiscent of that composer’s Te Deum, isolated moments of touched-nerve consideration, heard through reverberation.

You can read the rest here, if you’d like.

Writing to rule: introducing a new project

I’ve always been interested in the Japanese poetry known as haiku. Something has always appealed to me about its brevity and imagery; it’s a distillation of feeling when it’s done well. When I had to write a recollection of my time in Tokyo as part of a touring taiko group, I nicked one of Bashō’s poems to convey the way I felt.

In my new clothing
I feel so different, I must
look like someone else

I’ve had an old Penguin edition of Bashō’s haiku for years now, and I come back to it pretty regularly. It’s a tale of travel, of change, and you can read more about it here. If you’ve never read it, it’s definitely worth a look. (Handily, there’s a PDF version to be found here, with links to further reading.) But flipping through it recently, I was reminded of the power of brevity.

Brevity is something which I don’t have a great handle on, which you will recognise if you’ve read some of the reviews on this blog. So to counter that, I’ve started a new project. I must be serious about it as I registered a domain name and everything. Don’t worry, I’ll still be writing here, at the usual length. But the new project, 575 Reviews, is my attempt at combining brevity and review.

Each day, I’m aiming at writing a single review of something. A book. A film. An album. A play. Manga. Snack food. The terms aren’t really set, beyond there being a picture and a review. There’s not much there now, but it will build, and it is linked in my linklist so rather than spam this page with continual mentions, I’ll let you check it out yourselves.

Here’s a sample, though, a review of Nico’s album The Marble Index (itself named for a passage in a poem) in three lines:

Bleak, black-clad death-songs
Harmonium wheezes on
Goth make-out classic.

Not exactly Bashō, but it’s early days. I hope you’ll join me there, sometimes.

New Oren Ambarchi interview

My interview with composer and multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi (whose records are ace) has been published at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s an excerpt:

“I’m chasing a feeling I get from some of my favourite musics. Something that’s transporting, otherworldly. Ecstatic free sound. I’m searching for something that is almost unknown to me, until I find it, that is. Some kind of beauty.
“I know it when I find it. Somehow everything falls into place – hopefully – at a certain point. I’m happy for this to take a while, so it’s a journey.
“There is some perfectionism but I’m trying not to be too anal about it all. I don’t want to suck the life out of it from refining, refining, refining. It still needs to retain a rawness, an unpredictability. There’s a fine line there, and I have to watch it.”

You can read the rest here.

New Zeitkratzer review

My review of a live disc of Zeitkratzer performances of Whitehouse songs has gone live (a little while ago, now) over at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.

Zeitkratzer are a great ensemble. Their acoustic mastery is undeniable, and the sounds they recreate without access to a bunch of broken boxes and fucked electronics are spot-on. But somehow the execution of the task seems almost redundant: there’s as much enjoyment to be had by the idea of a bunch of traditional instruments covering Whitehouse as there is from having the end result in your hand.

You can read the whole review here, if you like.

New Oren Ambarchi review

My review of Quixotism, Oren Ambarchi’s new album on Editions Mego, is now live at Cyclic Defrost.

(Spoiler: it’s really good. )

Here’s a sample:

There’s a cold feeling to some of the composition – ‘Part 2′ touches on the ground Gavin Bryars walks upon – but it’s leavened with the joyous humanity of ‘Part 5′. Organ notes, muted guitar picking and tabla are joined with swooning strings in an elegiac celebration. It’s humanity writ large, and gives the piece narrative – this burst of sad joy seems to tell the story of a machine gaining sentience, a soul, before relapsing.

You can read the rest of the review here.

New Howard Stelzer review

My review of Howard Stelzer’s Brayton Point album has gone live at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample.

The album consists of manipulations of field recordings taken from around the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts. The station is to be decommissioned in 2017, so Stelzer’s recording acts as a kind of memorial to the site; a document which initially captures working sounds of the area before transforming into a thrumming, windy meditation on the limitless potentials of power. The industrial grime of the power station is strongly present, though it’s not in the jackhammer way which one would associate with an Eraserhead ethic.

You can read the rest here. 

New Bruno Sanfilippo review

Another of my reviews for Cyclic Defrost has gone life. This time, it’s a look at Bruno Sanfilippo’s ClarOscuro album.

The music is uniformly quiet in a way you’ll be familiar with if you’ve heard Nyman’s The Pianosoundtrack (‘Absentia’), or perhaps the piano works of Gavin Bryars (‘Luciana’), Yann Tiersen (the titular opener) or (in her quieter moments) Elena Kats-Chernin. It’s lyrical and there’s alot of sustained notes, stretching into decay. There’s touches of the rainy-afternoon Erik Satie or Claude Debussy about the work, but I feel that’s just in terms of emotional association rather than in terms of execution: the sound of the piano played this way makes the listener feel this way, almost regardless of the content. It could be library music.

You may read the rest of the review here.

New A. Dobson review

My review of A. Dobson’s Lost Broadcast has just gone live at Cyclic Defrost. Here’s a sample:

Everything is so honest a tribute to synth-heavy, jazz-kit almost-prog-but-a-bit-cooler, Kraut-it-yerself music (crossed with a little Atari ST magic, perhaps) it’s easy to imagine the album has been stuck behind someone’s couch for a couple of decades. There’s a couple of non-period sounds on the tracks which keep the ear alert – it’s not all heated-dust synth action, as the dub-squelch-cum-Barry-Adamson swing of ‘Don’t Trip’ shows – but this is as close-to-source retro for this genre as you’ll find. This thing breathes angles and neon.

You may read the rest of the review here.

I really recommend this album, especially if ’70s soundtracks are your thing. It’s available as a download only (here) and the other Rotary Tower releases look just as appealing.