Mariel Roberts is a Brooklyn-based cellist, known for her many collaborations and her free-spirited approach to blending classical formalism with improvised gestures. Armament is the follow-up to her 2017 solo album Cartography and her involvement with the amorphous, ever-changing Numinous ensemble, who released the album The Grey Land last year.
Armament consists of four pieces – two relatively short, and two longer – that find Roberts using pedals and other interventions to disrupt the ordinarily bucolic sound of the cello. While there are undoubtedly moments here where light seems to shine through, the overarching feeling is one of unsettling disquiet. In this way, it feels like an album perfectly suited to today’s disrupted world, even though it was recorded before our lives were restricted.
Running through these four pieces is an intense and ominous rumble. That bassy foundation layer ebbs and flows, but it is the element that stays with long after the concluding moments of ‘Arrow’ have dissipated into silence. The cello is known for a certain maudlin, mournful disposition, but in Roberts’ hands it takes on a amplified, darkened, brooding quality, its recognisable qualities displaced and refracted through the effects pedals she uses.
During the seventeen-minute ‘Hoard’ we hear that technique at perhaps its most complete, featuring moments of swirling, squalling dissonance where you can hear the physical pressure she is placing on the strings; passages are looped and processed into ruminative, unswerving drones that feel like long, undulating echoes, in time phasing into themselves to create nauseating microtonal skew; outlines of plaintive, uncertain melodies float overhead, becoming layered into a semblance of a string quartet yet with only one player; playful pizzicato sections create a levity, only to be crushed beneath aggressive swipes at the strings; heavily distorted sections buzz with a juddering, irrepressible, impenetrable death metal dirge. At one point, the cello ceases to be recognisable at all, become a warped, fluctuating electronic arpeggio full of brusque edges and violent energy. For this all to happen in one single episodic piece is an indication of Roberts’ creative mind in overdrive.
This is not a comfortable listen. It possesses very little that we might come to expect from an album created using the cello. So unrecognisable is the venerable instrument at times that if she had explained it was made entirely using tape loops or processed electronics, its foundation instrument would never have been known. Roberts describes the origins of the title as reflecting back the combative times we live in, where seemingly innocuous, innocent things are swept up alongside more purposefully hateful gestures as part of an antagonistic, aggressive cultural shift. In this sense, Roberts’ techniques and interventions are both her shields and her weapons, making Armament a powerfully incisive statement delivered in the form of a beautiful, unpredictable, mesmerising noise.
Armament by Mariel Roberts was released February 5 2021 by figureight.
Three new releases from The Tapeworm reflect the idiosyncratic, democratic approach to presenting material that has been the mainstay of the label since it was established in 2009.
venoztks is the alias of one of the three founders of The Tapeworm, though we don’t precisely know which one. How It’s Not Meant To Be is an exploration of electronic improvisation, full of prowling frequency fluctuations, gravelly static, sibilant hissing, clicks, unpredictable tone formations and rapid oscillations between noisy rumbles and quiet, occasionally flute-like intricacy. Scratchy noises appear, flutter violently at your ears and then recede, once more becoming inchoate and elusive.
While a lot of this tape is reminiscent of the earliest recorded electronic experiments, somewhat randomly, the spiralling, endless ebb and flow of sounds and the way they constantly wriggle (worm-like?) out of your grasp makes me think of those poor contestants on The Crystal Maze trying to snag as many gold foil tokens as they can before time runs out. Unlike that torturous final stage of the gameshow, however, there is plenty of time on How It’s Not Meant To Be to try and clutch at these sounds – an hour to be precise.
The venoztks website helpfully lists all the frequencies used in his works should you wish to attempt a cover version. Read more about The Tapeworm in our interview here.
Investigative journalist Nigel Wrench’s ZA87 is the sequel, of sorts, to another Tapeworm release (ZA86) from 2015. Wrench’s career took him to the brutally segregated streets of Soweto in the mid-1980s, finding him at the epicentre of tensions rarely without a microphone in his hand.
ZA87 acts as a powerful document of events that took place on a single day – July 27 1987. The subject of Wrench’s recording is the funeral of teenage activist Peter Sello Motau, assassinated by South African police. We hear Motau’s father’s outpouring of grief and disbelief at both his son’s death and the efforts of the police to halt the funeral. We hear poignant, rousing traditional singing. We hear Wrench interviewing Winnie Mandela, and Mandela provoking the police with a firm and frank riposte at their actions to restrict the funeral.
We hear sirens tearing past, creating a divisive moment of fear and panic. As an unadulterated, raw field recording, ZA87 is an unswerving audio document of one person’s sacrifice and a nation’s turbulent journey toward the ending of apartheid. More details can be found at www.za87.org
Of The Shapes Of Hearts And Humans is less a collaboration between saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi and violinist Zachary Paul as it is a journal entry.
Recorded on an early September day at Garfield Park in Pasadena, the duo improvisation was made at a time when the worst wildfires in the state’s history were raging across California, but there is little untameable heat to be found in this pairing. Instead, there is a delicate poignancy to their intertwining melodies, and a rueful, introspective levity, even amid moments of scratchy dissonance. It is a subtly uplifting experience to hear these two players gently weaving around one another in the open-air surroundings of the park.
A few days later, Paul upped sticks out of LA and began moving across the breadth of the United States. As he made his way eastward, one imagines that it was possible to still hear the echoes of his interplay with Shirioshi carried softly and sweetly on the September breezes that fuelled the devastating fires.
Tapeworm releases: How It’s Not Meant To Be by venoztks was released December 11 2020; ZA87 by Nigel Wrench was released March 5 2021; Of The Shapes Of Hearts And Humans by Patrick Shiroishi and Zachary Paul was released March 11 2021. Visit the Bandwurm minimart here.
Bow Shoulder is the stuff of near-legend. The album documents a 2010 impromptu improvised recording session at the Chicago studio of alt. country stalwarts Wilco following a gig the prior day by Huntsville – the Norwegian trio of Ivar Grydeland (electronics, electric guitar, acoustic guitar and pedal steel), Tonny Kluften (electric bass) and Ingar Zach (tabla machine, drone commander, drums and percussion) – that saw them sharing a bill with Wilco percussionist Glenn Kotche’s On Fillmore side-hustle, and which saw both Kotche and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline hop on stage for the Hunstville encore.
Convening at Wilco’s Loft space on June 29, presumably because Cline and Kotche happened to have the keys, the Huntsville players entered into a lengthy session that saw the already formidable five musicians augmented by Kotche’s fellow On Fillmore partner Darin Gray (bass) and keyboardist Yuka Honda. Edited and mixed ten years later by Grydeland at Oslo’s Amper Tone studio, Bow Shoulder consists of four lengthy pieces ranging from a svelte seven minutes to a expansive twenty, each one displaying diverse tonalities and a seamless, highly perceptive interplay.
‘Side Wind’, which opens the collection, is like a gathering storm, a landscape full of sonic tension – scratchy guitar sounds, the kinds of wild yet totally controlled effects that Cline manages to weave into whatever project he is hired onto, tabla percussion, long, droning notes and the outlines of melodic gestures. There is movement and progress here, but little by way of pay off. Around eight minutes in it feels like it might suddenly blow over into a thunderous psych-motorik groove as a tight bassline nudges itself forward, but that would be too obvious for Huntsville & Friends; instead things subside again into a tense quietude but a sense of hypnotic, trance-like forward motion remains.
Each piece is different from the next, but yet somehow utterly inseparable from the whole. The most significant departure arrives on ‘Lower’, wherein a more muscular interlocking between Zach and Kotche produces intense bursts of rhythm and subtle percussion gestures, upon which are heaped growling, whining feedback, distorted countermelodies that recall Cline’s pal Lee Ranaldo, long, fluttering echoes and grubby electronics. There is a feeling here of loops unspooling into the void, their final resting place a dense, impenetrable web of murky, thrilling noise, the whole piece finally arriving at a brooding, rhythmic intersection of menacing guitars and incessantly pounded drums.
This is a mesmerising artefact born of chance encounters and shared aesthetics, of intense musicianship and the symbiotic power of seasoned improvisers playing off one another.
Bow Shoulder by Huntsville (with Yuka Honda, Nels Cline, Darin Gray and Genn Kotche) was released September 25 2020 by Hubro.
Fragments is the debut album from LA’s Body/Negative, the pseudonym of nonbinary multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy Schiaffino, and follows their Epoche EP from 2019. Beginning with an instrumental cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ that sounds like it’s being heard through the gauzy vestiges of sleep, Schiaffino has produced an ambient album full of unique personality and highly personal, almost diaristic reference points.
Further. spoke to Schiaffino about the thoughts, feelings and inspirations that went into the creation of this beautiful micro-masterpiece of an album.
Listening to classical music as a child definitely influenced the way that I write. I primarily use sitting at my piano as my main source of inspiration – music always seems to come out of me easier on the piano if that makes sense. I grew up listening to a lot of classical composers and opera – things like Yanni and Andre Rieu – and groups like Thievery Corporation thanks to my oldest brother’s exceptionally good taste. I feel like all of those early sources informed the melodies that I create now and maybe even appears in my vocal style and often lack of lyrics.
The making of Fragments began probably in the summer of 2019. I had a lot of demos I was fleshing out with Dylan Gardner of the psych project Communicant, who ended up co-producing half of the record. I didn’t really intend to make an LP at first, I was just working on ideas, but all of those tracks just sort of found their way into being on this album. I put it down around the early spring of this year when I was in a really depressed state which eventually led to a major break up in my life, and I couldn’t bear to listen to any of the songs until maybe June or so when we were deep in quarantine.
I think I took a lot of inspiration not only from the electronic music, IDM and ambient music that I listen to, but also a whole lot of pop music. My co-producer has his roots in pop and produces a lot of pop artists. He showed me a lot of really, really awesome pop artists who have some pretty incredibly experimental production. I really tried to harness those textual elements that I found and put it in my music in a way that felt appropriate. Pop music really was a huge influence throughout the making of the first and second half of the record, in addition to things like shoegaze and dreampop.
Inspiration, productivity and creative impulses are pretty sporadic for me. I can’t really just sit down and force myself to write something. I really envy the people that do have that ability! I can pretty much only write when I want to and when I have an idea; whether a melody pops into my head while I’m driving, or I hear something in a song that I want to replicate. My demos always have to have some kind of clear purpose behind why I’m sitting down to make it, otherwise I just kind of make garbage.
A lot of my music is made while sitting on the floor of my living room surrounded by gear and tangled cables. I don’t know why but that kind of weird chaotic space makes the most sense for me and helps me get all my ideas out. Pretty much all of the album was recorded in my home, aside from ‘Figure 8’, which was recorded in my co-producer Dylan’s studio and engineered entirely by him. The final track ‘The Big Sleep’ was a remote co-write with my friend Nick Ventura. He did about half of the things you hear on that track, and I believe recorded his parts in his own home.
My co-producer Dylan used to always play Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ for me on his beautiful teachers’ model Wurlitzer piano which I am so envious of and want one of my own. He used to always play me that song before I had ever really dived deep into Elliott‘s catalogue – Dylan was already a massive superfan and eventually showed me all of my now-favourite Elliott tracks. Dylan played it so beautifully that I always just assumed that it was one of Dylan‘s original songs; I never knew it was a cover of something! I found that melody to be so beautiful and so strange, and eventually one day I woke up with such a strong urge to cover it and make it my own, so Dylan and I recorded our version of it in one night.
I absolutely love Elliott Smith. I was kind of a late fan even though I’ve been seeing murals of him everywhere ever since I moved to LA in 2017. I hope I don’t lose too many cool points for admitting that! His music has such a fragile quality to it, and it’s got this just really beautiful element to it which I think isn’t found in a lot of modern singer-songwriters’ catalogues. I think he was a really special person and I relate a lot to his story… In addition to that he’s just an incredible guitarist and undeniable melody magician and I think that he is totally underrated.
The first half of Fragments was recorded in chronological order. I was feeling really down and there were a lot of tough things happening in my life. The second half of the record was kind of just reflecting on the idea of saving yourself, and helping yourself stay afloat.
The very last track ‘The Big Sleep’ is a euphemism for suicide (and also a cheeky reference to David Lynch). My decision to make that the final track on the record was not only because it is sonically lighter than the first half of the record, but it’s also a song that’s about wondering what lies beyond life. I never really felt existential in that sort of way. Rather than fearing the endless unknown of the afterlife, I always welcomed death with open arms, and there’s been a lot of death in my life, so it always felt very normal for me strangely.
That track was me grappling with the idea of, “What actually happens after I die?” for the first time in probably my entire life, so I thought it would be an excellent album closer, to leave things on a light note, right? I think the latter half of Fragments was both intentionally and unintentionally lighter, and definitely draws more from shoegaze and dreampop (mainly bands like Alcest, Slowdive, Hatchie, Tamaryn), much more so than the first half of the record.
Fragments by Body/Negative was released October 23 2020 by Track Number Records.
Immy is London-born, Falmouth-based singer-songwriter Imogen Leach. ‘In The Morning’ is her debut single, showcasing a lightness of touch and a haunting vocal intonation that prompts comparison with the work of First Aid Kit. Ostensibly a frustrated paean to the transiency and impermanence of one-night stands, ‘In The Morning’ concludes with a firmness and resolution, even as Imogen delivers the song with a quietly stirring grace and subtlety. Expect great things. Released September 28 2020.
Spacelab – Kaleidomission (Wormhole World / HREA’M)
A joint release by the ever-dependable Wormhole World and HREA’M labels for Spacelab, a mysterious electronic project with absolutely no biographical backstory. Containing 36 short tracks, Kaleidomission is an exercise in plunderphonic dexterity, taking in freaky little segments of speech or birdsong culled from the ether, wonky loops of jazz drumming and ambient texture like ‘We Love Can’ and ‘Astral Dynamics’ that sound like they’re being broadcast from a broken AM transmitter in the overgrown grounds of Aleister Crowley’s house. The title of the standout skewed electronica of ‘Fucked Casio Melody’ requires no further explanation. Released October 16 2020.
Lagoss is a collaboration between Discrepant label head Gonçalo F. Cardoso and Tenerife-based electronica duo Tupperware. The 37 short tracks on Imaginary Island Music, Vol. 1 are like listening to Les Baxter or Martin Denny at a post-apocalyptic exotica club on a broken soundsystem. Swooning tropical lushness abounds here, but it’s skewed to the point of nauseating discordancy as vibraphones wobble and shimmer into dissonant sprawls and hip-hop / electro beats lurch awkwardly. If you listen closely to tracks like ‘Chipude’, you can hear the sound of waves lapping around a wrecked beach bar run by an old stoner dude in a Hawaiian shirt mixing Mai Tais for thirsty ghosts. Released October 9 2020.
For his first electronic album under his own name, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante (aka Trickfinger) delivers an energetic tribute to two vastly different things: his recently-departed feline companion Maya, present with him in the studio since RHCP’s Stadium Arcadium, and his hitherto unknown love of jungle and drum ‘n’ bass. A time machine back to the period 1991 – 1996, tracks like ‘Brand E’ and ‘Amethyblowl’ fizz with turbulent breakbeat edginess, while his instantly-recognisable awareness of melody offsets that rhythmic freneticism and intensity with stirring ambient colour. Released October 23 2020.
Volutes is the debut album by French duo Christine Ott and Mathieu Gabry. With a title referring to the spiralling patterns evident in both architecture and nature, Volutes is a breathtaking masterpiece full of gentle, emotive twists. With a palette of sounds including piano, electronics and the expressive violin of Anne Irène-Kempf, moments such as ‘Trapezian Fields’ are freighted with an unpredictable, austere, haunted quality full of intricate detail. Ott’s work with Yann Tiersen can be heard in the mesmerising Ondes Martenot-led ‘Ultraviolet’, wherein layers of the instrument’s characteristic reedy alien sounds are encircled by Irène-Kempf’s savagely heart-wrenching violin as it plunges into minor key despair. Un album d’une beauté poignante. Released October 16 2020.
Fragments is the debut album from LA’s Body/Negative, the pseudonym of nonbinary multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy Schiaffino, and follows their Epoche EP from 2019. Beginning with an instrumental cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ that sounds like it’s being heard through the gauzy vestiges of sleep, Schiaffino has produced an ambient album full of unique personality and highly personal, almost diaristic reference points. Here you can just make out their classical musical roots poking through on pieces like ‘Catholic Guilt’, but they are presented like elusive memories appearing out of the haze of long-buried emotions, making the fifteen minutes of Fragments one of the most haunting and transcendent albums I’ve ever heard. Released October 23 2020.
Paradise Cinema is a trio consisting of Portico Quartet multi-instrumentalist Jack Wyllie with percussionists Khadim Mbaye and Tons Sambe. Recorded while Wylie was on location in Dakar, Senegal, his vision for the album was prompted by the ceaseless rhythms he’d hear through the night and the faded aspirations and historical grandeur of the city. The timbres on pieces like ‘Liberté’ are immediately recognisable from Wylie’s day job with Portico Quartet, all shimmering ambience and considered, absorbing electronics, but it is their fusion with the Mbaye and Sambe’s percussive backbone that focusses the attention. ‘It Will Be Summer Soon’ is a restless, urgent highlight, sounding like rush-hour traffic on a hopeful Senegalese morning. Released October 9 2020.
Espen Eriksen Trio – End Of Summer (Rune Grammofon)
Seven tracks of piano jazz from the versatile fingertips of Espen Eriksen, recorded in Oslo during lockdown after the trio of Eriksen, double bassist Lars Tormod Jenset and drummer Andreas Bye saw all of their shows cancel in quick succession. Released as the strangest of summers drew to a close and the dork Norwegian autumn commenced, pieces like ‘Transparent Darkness’ carry a ruminative, reflective quality in their melodic structures, while the Latin rhythms of the album’s title track carries a sense of quietly chilled optimism. There is also a sense of catharsis and energy in the pieces here, borne from the trio finally getting back together in the studio for a vibrant, socially-distanced session. Released September 25 2020.
YOVA – the duo of Jova Radevska and Mark Vernon – have today released their new single, ‘An Innocent Man’. Not a cover of a Billy Joel song, ‘An Innocent Man’ contains a tender narrative inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird, encapsulating Scout’s love and empathy toward her father and his anxiety at trying to do the right thing in the face of immense pressure.
Jova’s quiet lyrics are delivered over a fragile tapestry of music box and Ondes Martenot melodies from Rob Ellis, violin from Anna Phoebe and cello from Nick Holland. Its presenting is immediately arresting, carrying an introspection and uncertainty that leave you feeling ever-so-slightly changed at its conclusion. “It came about so unexpectedly,” explains Jova. “When jamming with Mark, I found myself starting to narrate scenes from To Kill A Mockingbird, completely unplanned, and that was that.” Much like the book that inspired it, ‘An Innocent Man’ gives you pause to reflect, both on a world still prepared to tolerate the racial injustices that Harper Lee so vividly documented, and also the strength of family ties.
The song is accompanied by a powerfully stirring animated video from Tim Burton collaborator Jess Cope that takes place inside a music box. Here we observe the care and affection of the song’s narrator toward her father, the heavy weight that he must bear in his pursuit of moral rectitude, and a savage reflection of a world still unable to tolerate equality.
Today, Further. brings you the lyric video for ‘An Innocent Man’. Jess Cope’s video will screened at various film festivals over the next few months.
An Innocent Man by YOVA is released October 23 2020. Listen here.
In 2019, to my immense disappointment, the Front & Follow label decided to shut up shop. It looked like either a temporary cessation of activities or a complete end of a 12-year run that had seen the Manchester-based imprint issue an incredible run of adventurous sonic material from a diverse set of artists.
Fortunately, 2020’s lockdown presented the ideal opportunity to bring the label back, specifically for the Isolation And Rejection series of artist compilations. From the off, the premise was simple – Justin Watson, who runs the label, put out an open call for artists to send in tracks that had been rejected by other compilers. Isolation And Rejection became something of a home for the unwanted, overlooked and unloved. All proceeds from the sales of the digital albums go to The Brick in Wigan, a charity focussed, like Isolation And Rejection, on the homeless.
In keeping with the previous three editions of the series, the tracks presented on the penultimate instalment are far from mere
offcuts or poor quality knock-offs. Volume 4 collects together twenty-four tracks from established, well-known artists like Kepier Widow, Howlround, Rupert Lally and Pulselovers – none of whom, frankly, should ever find their music on a compiler’s cutting room floor. These artists nestle evenly alongside material from less well-known individuals, creating a sense of even-handedness that is a credit to Watson and his label. That he selected an acoustic guitar strumfest – MJ Hibbett’s ‘Rocking Out But Quietly’ – as the album’s centrepiece is downright audacious amid the anxious, squalling, buzzing, droning and quietly ethereal electronics elsewhere, but then again Front & Follow were always defiantly atypical in their release schedules.
So here you get the woozy, hypnotic structures of Stellarays’ ‘Butterfly Control Tower’, all delicate melodies and an electro-shoegazery disposition; the nod in the direction of Cabaret Voltaire on Function Automat’s resolute ‘Data Data’; Earthborn Vision’s haunting, edgy electro pulses on ‘Effects Of Isolation’; Graham Reznick’s processed cello and choral vocal textures melding with stirring electronics on the beautiful ‘The Visit’; Kepier Widow’s brooding ‘Perfect Latency’. Elsewhere, Rupert Lally immerses himself in the same ambient sonic foreshore that inspired his Marine Life album with the pastoral ’It Learns From Its Mistakes’ and Lammergeiers delivers a psychedelic stew of amorphous, shapeshifting processed blues guitar riffs and grainy textures set to motorik rhythms on ‘Ephemeris’.
My personal favourite here comes from Joe Evans’ Runningonair. His ‘Cocktail Hour’ is a breezy slice of gentle exotica, all tranquil beats, discrete acid squelches, blurry shapes, vibes and jazzy piano, just perfect for mixing a Mai-Tai or three in the comfort of the Tiki bar you fashioned up because you had nothing else to do in lockdown. Cheers.
Isolation & Rejection Volume 4 is released September 25 2020 by Front & Follow.
Tom Wheatley’s Round Trip is described as “an imaginary journey for double bass”.
For those who haven’t seen Wheatley performing, this potentially requires some explanation. For those who have, the journey through the limitless sonorities, textures and possibilities that he can manifest from his instrument will be all too familiar – scratches, hissing sounds, the sound of strings, scraped and subjected to intense pressure, noises that you cannot reconcile with an instrument that ordinarily seems to lend itself to ponderous, languid playing.
Wheatley is a master of using the whole instrument in his exploration of sound. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is sacred. Anything that can produce a sound is legitimate and accepted. I saw him perform once with such intensity that by the end the horsehair of his bow was detached, flailing, pathetic and thwarted; he had exploited the strings so close to the very limits of their elasticity that I thought they might snap; his performance was so physical and determined that if he had smashed the wood body against the gallery wall and played among the splinters it would have felt utterly logical.
You can imagine some of that technique being used to coax the myriad sounds that can be heard across Round Trip – frantic / frenetic; quiet / intricate; creaking / whining; droning / murky. At around the twenty-two minute mark, Wheatley creates a squall of bleats and stuttering sounds that feel like they must have been played on a sax, its performer bent double and pushing every last breath through the horn with wild abandon. I was not remotely surprised to be told that it was still Wheatley and his bass.
On Round Trip, he is accompanied by nothing more than location sounds. Birds tweet, chirp and trill melodically; pedestrians chatter; a lone dog barks; traffic can be heard far off in the distance; a delivery truck reverses nearby. Tune into that and you hear the cacophony of daily existence; a dramatic, disquieting, vibrant tapestry of ceaseless, beautiful noise. Heard in that context, Wheatley’s investigative playing here acts as an allegory for life’s quintessential, wonderful restlessness.
Round Trip by Tom Wheatley is released July 29 2020 by TAKUROKU. TAKUROKU is the download imprint of Café Oto in Dalston, London. Buy Round Trip at the TAKUROKU website here.
At some point in May, a letter dropped through my letterbox with a handwritten envelope that stood apart from the endless clusters of bills that seem to be our only engagement with the UK postal service these days. Inside was a signed map of Orkney created by musician Erland Cooper containing walking routes and birdspotting locations. That delivery accompanied the imminent release of Hether Blether, the concluding instalment of Cooper’s trilogy of releases that celebrate the collection of islands where he grew up.
Where 2018’s Solan Goose eulogised the islands’ birdlife and 2019’s Sule Skerry the sea, Hether Blether turns its attention on the land. Sort of. The land in question is the mythological island of the album’s title, a folkloric, missing location that naturally does not appear on the map that Cooper sent me. What does appear on that map, however, are the likes of ‘Noup Head’, ‘Longhope’ and ‘Rousay’, all tracks on the new album, continuing the theme of the previous two albums wherein Cooper named pieces of music after specific locations.
Resplendent in lush, yet fragile string arrangements and choral texture, the tracks on Hether Blether are joyous, celebratory even, albeit in a self-reflective, muted fashion. The synth passages and field recordings that ran through Skule Skerry here take a backseat, emerging briefly on pieces like the stirring, slowly evolving ‘Skreevar’, one of the most beatific moments here. We once again eavesdrop on the local, distinctive Scottish / not Scottish accents on ‘Longhope’ and explore Orkney’s mythology through the strangely affecting poetry of John Burnside on ‘Noup Head’, each word in Kathryn Joseph’s narration containing a sort of gravity and poise that makes you yearn for the islandscape of Cooper’s youth.
Appropriately enough, it is Cooper’s own voice that we hear more prominently throughout Hether Blether, most notably on the album’s centrepiece, ‘Peedie Breeks’, where he is accompanied by poignantly seesawing strings, bells, and operatic vocals that drift in like an icy breeze. His is a lilting, tender voice, effortlessly tugging at your heartstrings as he delivers this song of innocence, playfulness and the unbridled, unshakeable optimism of youth.
Hether Blether by Erland Cooper is released May 29 2020 by Phases.
Latibula is Marionette’s first label compilation, offering a window into the eclectic artists who call the label home as well as providing a sneak preview of where the Toronto-based imprint might go next. All proceeds from the digital compilation will go to Médicins Sans Frontières.
Sans frontières is also an apt way of describing Marionette’s approach. The label was founded in 2013 and swiftly made a mark through releasing complex electronic music that was unafraid of borders, genre limitations or jaded notions of purism, with most releases given their own visual identity by label stalwart Benjamin Kilchhofer. The Basel-based electronic adventurer has released four distinctive solo and duo releases for the label over the past few years, each one characterised by his approach to fusing modular sound design with acoustic instruments. Kilchhofer’s ‘Kloen’ is one of the natural highlights of this collection, led by a synth sequence that feels more like a soprano saxophone line than something that might have emerged from a nest of writhing patch cables.
Elsewhere, musician and instrument builder Pierre Bastien follows up last year’s playful Tinkle, Twang ‘n Tootle with ‘4hands 1breath’. A collaboration with jazz drummer Steve Argüelles and pianist Benoît Delbecq, the piece includes Bastien’s pocket trumpet played through running water against a backdrop of abstract percussion and wandering piano. Another brilliant Marionette release from last year was Giraffe’s Desert Haze, which found the Hamburg trio tapping into German rock reference points from Can to Manuel Göttsching; the trio follow that up with the brilliant ‘Lines Across The Still’, a mellow exploration of wavering melodies, stuttering guitar and polyrhythmic percussion.
One of the most interesting pieces here is ‘Serpentina’ by another Basel-based musician, Marco Papiro. Papiro is a fan of vintage kit, as evidenced across the many albums he’s released to date, but he’s also a DJ, and that tends to mean his tracks are infused with a sense of motion and finely-controlled tension. The brief ‘Serpentina’ is perhaps the most outwardly electronic track here, rolling forth on springy sounds and simple chiming, expressive melodies that feel like they belong in a pivotal scene in an 80s teen movie.
Papiro’s piece slots in alongside other hidden gems from Twinkle3 (Richard Scott, David Ross and Clive Bell), MinaeMinae, Julian Sartorius, Soundwalk Collective and others, pointing to a vibrant future release schedule for Marionette.
Latibula is released by Marionette on May 1 2020 through Bandcamp. Find Marionette at Bandcamp here.