Monday, 17 January 2011

CLOCK OPERA..."pocket symphonies with a mechanical, repetitious feel"

“They're almost as eccentric as Jackson-as-Jacko. Not that they sleep in hermetically sealed tents and hang around with hominoids, just that their approach to music-making is rather unusual.” 
Clock Opera is really a he: Guy Connelly, who is from London and used to be in bands called The Corrections and The Fall Out Trust and now cuts and dices found sounds and instrumental segments with psychotic finesse. What you imagine to be harp glissandos on tracks such as, Alouette, are actually the noises made by five guitars, "chopped into smithereens and fiddled with sonically and in terms of pitch and rhythm," says Connelly. No wonder he calls what he does "chop pop" – he literally chops up sounds to create songs out of bits. He gets a lot of his percussive effects by rattling whatever happens to be lying around such as cheese graters and old car batteries, or by wandering round his house slamming the cutlery draw.

He chops up his lyrics as well: he finds a story then cuts up the words and reassembles them in a random order that occasionally will make a strange sort of sense after several readings.
Man Made, for example, came from an article in a magazine about a beauty pageant in a women's prison in Siberia where one girl from each block got dolled up and played for the chance of parole. And White Noise was a personal reminiscence of the time Connelly was walking down London's Whitechapel Road when a riderless motorbike came careening towards him and nearly sliced him in half. Gives a whole new meaning to his "chop pop" thing, that does.

Connelly's musical passion
"pocket symphonies with a mechanical, repetitious feel" and singing in a high-pitched voice over the top. He and his band have only played two shows but already the A&R fraternity are circling, which is encouraging, if experimental groups out there such as Associates and Animal Collective can be counted as "pop", or if the ravishing "systems music" of Philip Glass and Steve Reich are successful why not Connelly. 
Connelly has done remixes for Yeasayer and Bloc Party, he has written scores for the Rambert dance company. Personally one of my favourite tracks is Once and for all, White Noise as well as A Piece of String! Listen....

Friday, 14 January 2011

YANN TIERSEN..."Let's live in an enormous world of sound... forget all knowledge and instrumental skills, and just use instinct – the same way punk did."

“Yann Tiersen has been honing his musical aesthetic since he could stand on two legs.” 

He started learning piano at the age of four, taking up violin at the age of six and receiving classical training at musical academies. Then, at the age of 13, he chose to alter his destiny, breaking his violin into pieces, buying a guitar and forming a rock band.
Tiersen saw acts like Nirvana, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, The Cramps, Television and Suicide. 

When his band broke up a few years later, instead of hunting for some new musicians, he bought a cheap mixing desk, an eight-track reel, and started recording music solo with a synth, sampler and drum machine, poring over the grooves of old records on the hunt for loops and orchestral strings to plunder.
"One day I thought, instead of spending days on research and listening to tons of records to find the nearest sound of what I have in mind, why don't I fix this fucking violin and use it?" 
Thus the beginning of Tiersen recording music alone with guitar, violin and accordion, guided not by the classical canon, but by intuition and his vision of "a musical anarchy".
"Let's live in an enormous world of sound we can use randomly, with no rules at all," says Tiersen, of his vision. "Let's play with sound, forget all knowledge and instrumental skills, and just use instinct – the same way punk did."

1995's albums La Valse Des Monstres and Rue Des Cascades, a collection of short pieces recorded with toy piano, harpsichord, violin, accordion and mandolin. Six years later, the record several tracks, along with a couple of Tiersen originals, was used on the soundtrack to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film
Amelie (2001).

Tiersen's status as one of the most pioneering and original artists of his generation and commencing a run of successful albums like 2001's L'Absente and 2005's Les Retrouvailles.  Tiersen also took his music out around the world, playing shows with a full orchestra and an amplified string quartet.
And following the box-office success of Amelie, Tiersen's skills as a soundtracker were much in demand, leading to scores for the likes of Wolfgang Becker's tragicomedy Good Bye Lenin! (2003)
Dust Lane is the sixth album by Yann Tiersen and is, inescapably, “an album preoccupied with mortality.” During its recording, Tiersen lost his mother and a close friend, and the music is about life not as something lost, but something to be lived. "Not a sad thing, but a colourful thing - an experience sometimes painful, but also joyful," says Tiersen. 
 Dust Lane is the product of serendipity, of experimentation as a means of discovery, and the happy accident that breathes life into a new idea. The album began as a simple, song-based album, sketched out by Tiersen alone on acoustic guitar, mandolin, bouzouki and toy drums gradually took on new layers and added complexities. "I took some distance and decided to deconstruct most of the songs as I was quite tired with the traditional structure of chorus, bridge, etc," he says.

Dust Lane features an extended cast. Joining on drums is Dave Collingwood, who Tiersen discovered while on tour in Paris. Matt Elliott, a solo artist contributes lugubrious vocals, notably on 'Chapter 19'.
Dust Lane is an array of vintage synths, analogue textures, electric guitars and bass bring layers of fuzz and distortion. Songs slip from their moorings, take off on new and unexpected currents. "My plan was also to play with contrast between electric and quite dense parts and more sober and minimal quiet parts including piano and strings," he adds. So, voices join together in chorus, arcing violins and crashing drums build towards mighty fanfares – but then, clouds part, squall recedes to silence, and mournful piano and strings guide you home.

Personally I listen to tracks such as Dark Stuff and Chapter 19.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

JON HOPKINS..."a childhood music prodigy who was exposed to electronica and rave created his fascination for exploring contemporary sounds with classical technique"

Jon Hopkins is a London-based electronic composer, producer and remixer. He makes powerfully emotive, instrumental music that consistently crosses genres, ranging from solo acoustic piano to explosive, bass-heavy electro. A long-term collaborator of Brian Eno, his career has remained unpredictable, taking in collaborations with King Creosote and David Holmes; remixes for such varied artists as Wild Beasts, Nosaj Thing, James Yorkston and Four Tet. His hyper-energetic live show has been seen at some of the world's most iconic venues, including Sydney Opera House with Brian Eno, Madison Square Garden opening for Coldplay, and innumerable clubs, festivals and concert halls the world over. 

 A childhood musical prodigy, he studied classical piano at the Royal College of Music from the age of 12. Exposure to the melodic side of electronica and rave via such artists as Acen, Seefeel and Plaid proved eye-opening, and influenced his fascination in exploring more contemporary sounds. He was hired to play keyboards and samplers for Imogen Heap, then after a year of touring, began to write solo music. His first two albums on Just Music, 2001’s Opalescent and 2004’s Contact Note, gained him critical recognition.

Hopkins was commissioned by multi-award-winning Wayne McGregor – renowned for his fierce, physically-testing choreography and ground-breaking collaborations – to compose music for Entity, the production for McGregor's "Random Dance" group. 
On 5 May 2009, the song "Light Through the Veins" from Hopkins' album Insides was released for free on iTunes as part of their Discovery Downloads. This song is also featured as the introduction to the first track "Life In Technicolor" on Coldplay's 2008 album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends as well as the backing for "The Escapist" which is hidden at the end of the album. Hopkins worked as one of the co-producers for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends contributing sounds and various keyboard instruments.

 In 2009 he helped Brian Eno score the Peter Jackson film, The Lovely Bones, along with Leo Abrahams. In 2010 Hopkins scored the soundtrack of the British sci-fi thriller film Monsters, his first solo feature electro-acoustic score, which is built around processed string performances by arranger Davide Rossi. Whilst, supporting slots with The XX, Royksopp and Four Tet helped the album gain further momentum, and it reached no.2 in the electronic charts on US iTunes.
He also co-wrote and co-performed Brian Eno's new album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, released on Warp Records in late 2010.

He is currently working on a new solo electronic album, to be released on Domino in 2011.
Personally I prefer tracks such as Reprise, Searchlight, The Wider Sun, Vessel, Light through the veins, and Autumn Hill...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

IMOGEN HEAP..“the beautifully shuffling beat, descending piano chords and dark lyrical core further confirms her musical diversity.”

Imogen Heap (born December 9, 1977) is a British singer-songwriter / electronica artist from Essex, England.  
Classically trained her musical taste grew in tandem with her songwriting, Imogen's influences ranging from Nine Inch Nails to the burgeoning dance culture. She left two years later armed with her qualifications and hooked her up with the producer Nik Kershaw. 

Heap performed four songs between sets by The Who and Eric Clapton at the 1996 Prince’s Trust Concert in Hyde Park, London.  A Twenty minute set before an audience if 150,000 people, the concert gave her first taste of the limelight and served to crystallise her hypnotic and highly theatrical stage manner. Gigs in Camden would later see this persona expand with the aid of a walking stick, her trademark six inch leather horns furry hat and freaky hip hop dancing. Now courted by London's A&R fraternity, Imogen signed to Almo Sounds in April 1997.
Imogen started to record with producers David Kahne and Guy Sigsworth, whose cut 'n' paste production style and ability to cross-fertilise musical genres engendered a feeling of mutual respect between producers and artist. 
Her second single 'Shine', found Imogen in mellower mood. “Its beautifully shuffling beat, descending piano chords and dark lyrical core further confirmed Imogen's musical diversity.”

Her debut album 'I Megaphone':  Literate and honest in the style of Kate Bush and Patti Smith, the album takes the listener on a journey from despair to elation, stability to glorious insanity via it's potent brew of mashed up beats, guitars and classical flourishes. 'I Megaphone' ranges from the tender ballad 'sleep', a song that captures Heap at her most relaxed, to the baroque arpeggios of 'Rake It In' (complete with guillotine sound); from the piano song 'Come Here Boy' an ode to a father figure turned sexual figurehead, to the sparse, disjointed beats of 'Whatever'.
In December 2003, Heap announced on her web site that she was going to write and produce her second solo album, using her site as an online blog to update fans on progress, even seeking them to be her A&R team for the lyrics to “Daylight Robbery”. Heap set herself a deadline of one year to make the album (she booked the album mastering for December 2004), and re-mortgaged her flat to fund production costs, including the use of studio time and instruments (which she purchased as a birthday present to herself). Having been burned by previous challenges with record labels, Heap decided to form her own record label on which to release the new record. At the end of 2004, Heap premiered two album tracks online, enabling fans to pay for a digital download, entitled Just For Now (which was up for a limited time as a Christmas gift), and Goodnight and Go, which had been featured on the second season of hit US TV drama The O.C. 
In April 2005, The O.C. season two finale featured another track, the sparse vocodered-vocal track, Hide and Seek
As well as TV soundtracks (Frou Frou and Heap’s solo records have been featured in shows as varied as The O.C. to CSI, among others), Heap has also contributed solo tracks to movie soundtracks. Her cover of the song “Spooky” for the soundtrack to Just Like Heaven. Heap also wrote a special track entitled Can’t Take it In for the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
In addition to producing her own records, she has also collaborated with artists as diverse as Joshua Radin, Jeff Beck, Temposhark, LHB, Way Out West, Jon Bon Jovi, Mich Gerber, Sean Lennon, Urban Species, Blue October, Jon Hopkins and Acacia.
Imogen’s current album ‘Ellipse’ is currently out, featuring Canvas, Aha!, and Half Life. Imogen is also currently on tour to promote her new album.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

THE BIG PINK..."the London duo who create soundscapes that are arty yet tuneful"

The Big Pink are an electro rock duo that formed in 2007 in London, England. London residents Robbie Furze (vocals, guitar) and Milo Cordell (keyboards, synths, vocals) formed the Big Pink in their home studio, where the two musicians began mixing the droning soundscapes of Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine with the lush electronics of M83.

Milo Cordell is son of 1960s pop producer Denny and runs the Merok label, which has released cutting-edge dance acts Klaxons and Crystal Castles. Robbie Furze is a former guitarist with electro-punk singer Alec Empire and is also a founding member of the band Panic DHH.

This London duo use gritty beats, droning guitars, abstract effects and dreamy vocals to create a soundscape that is arty yet tuneful.
They have previously supported Muse, TV on the Radio, Florence + the Machine, Crystal Castles and Klaxons
They are best known for their 2009 single Dominos, which peaked at #27 on the UK Singles Chart and #36 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in the United States.

After experimenting with distorted noise and melodic nuance in the studio, the duo enlisted help from several friends -- including electronic artist Jo Apps and members of Sunn O))) -- in order to perform the material in concert. A series of popular shows followed, prompting NME to hail the band as "London's coolest new stars," and the Big Pink responded by releasing a limited-edition single through the House Anxiety label. The duo soon signed to influential indie label 4AD and, following the release of several singles including, Too Young To Love/Crystal Visions (House Anxiety), Velvet and Stop The World (4AD). Their debut album “A Brief History of Love” was recorded at the Electric Ladyland Studios in New York and was released in the UK on the 14th of September 2009.  A little over a year later, the duo issued a mix CD called Tapes for the K7! label.

Personally the track I find the most epic is Crystal Visions, although I do like the track Velvet.  The gradual crescendo and layering that may appear as just pure mess and a blur of noise can be interpreted as deliberate intricate lines of distortion.  Furthermore for me the thicker the polyphonic texture the better even if the melodic phrases appear simplistic, individually by themselves. It creates an atmospheric piece rather than a strict structured song lasting a typical duration of three and half minutes.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

PHILIP GLASS...rejects the notion of "minimalism" and defines his work...“music with repetitive structures”

“Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.”

The operas, “Einstein on the Beach,” “Satyagraha,” “Akhnaten,” and “The Voyage,”  play throughout the world’s leading houses. Glass has written music for experimental theatre such as “The Hours” and Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun”.  “Koyaanisqatsi,” his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, has been said to be one of the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since “Fantasia.” His associations and collaborations with leading rock, pop and world music artists began in  the 1960s. 
Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music -- simultaneously.

Dissatisfied with much of what then passed for modern music, he moved to Europe, where he studied with Nadia Boulanger (who taught Aaron Copland , Virgil Thomson and Quincy Jones) and worked closely with the sitar virtuoso and composer Ravi Shankar. He then returned to New York in 1967 and formed the Philip Glass Ensemble – comprising of seven musicians playing keyboards and a variety of woodwind instruments, amplified and fed through a mixer. 

The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to define his work as “music with repetitive structures.” “Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry.” 

Glass has composed more than twenty operas, large and small; eight symphonies (with others already on the way); two piano concertos and concertos for violin, piano, timpani, and saxophone quartet and orchestra; soundtracks to films ranging from new scores to the stylizing old classics; string quartets; and a growing body of work for solo piano and organ. He has collaborated with Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Yo-Yo Ma, and Doris Lessing, among many others. He presents lectures, workshops, and solo keyboard performances around the world, and continues to appear regularly with the Philip Glass Ensemble.

                                                Here is a video showing a preview of the first movement of the new Glass Partita                                                         for Solo Violin which will be premiere in the fall of 2011. 

Follow the link to read more about the latest and current news surrounding Philip Glass ...