15.1

I was going to do a blog about all the good music I heard during Q3 2020. However, given the weather went south once October started, I thought a mix would better showcase the tunes.

I spent time out on the bike as always but also enjoyed taking in the fabulous sunsets September often brings. Although, I’ll miss the summer, the sunsets are too late for an early to bed merchant like myself.

Up the hill.

The spot of choice is a hill south west of home and provides an uninterrupted view over the mountains to the west. During September the sun sets between the mountains. I’ve yet to encounter another person at the spot I go to. Happy with that.

Sunset from Mailer Hill, Perth.

The baw sometimes comes with.

This mix reflects time spent watching the sun go down during September. Good times.

  1. ‘Sonar’ – Nils Frahm
  2. ‘QP-06.33’ – Quiet Places
  3. ‘Atlantis’ – Forrest Fang
  4. ‘Recumbent Speech’ – Ezra Feinberg
  5. ‘Yet Another Reason To Be Still’ – Endless Melancholy
  6. ‘In Search Of Sleep’ – Aiden Baker
  7. ‘Aguas Frescas’ – LNZNDRF
  8. ‘Exit’ – Auscultation
  9. ‘Chorale Parts 1-4’ (Voiceless Mix)’ – Max Richter
  10. ‘That’s How You Get Hurt’ – Courtney Marie Andrews

Jaykits Vol. 15

It’s the time of the year that my annual ambient mix (The ‘Jaykits’ Series) gets put together. I’ve no idea why I do this in August/September when the end of year would make more sense. Maybe next year I’ll rectify this.

As always, I’ve loved putting this together. A majority of this was formed of the lockdown walks, often in the evening sun. The field recordings were either recorded in my garden or out in the woodlands of Perth (as was the cover photo). The early days of lockdown meant the bird song was just that bit more prominent and easy to capture. Reverb has been added to the field recordings and used throughout the mix.

In terms of the music, selecting the tunes was easy. The first track chosen was the The Slow Descent Has Begun by A Winged Victory for the Sullen from The Undivided Five. The album came out at the start of November 2019 by which time Jaykits Vol. 14 was done. After that the tunes on the mix are presented in some sort of chronological order. Motionfield, Jonas Munk and Federico Mosconi were early year favourites. The rest has been released since the world changed. That is except for the Virginia Astley track. The title track From Gardens Where We Feel Secure is included. I will forever associate that time with her album. A classic from the early 80s that I was lucky enough to discover this year. The mix finishes with Bella Ciao (Version Lenta) from Money Heist. We discovered that show during lockdown. It will long live in the memory.

I very much hope you enjoy.

Jaykits Vol. 15 – 1hr 11mins

Intro – Blackbird field recordings May/June 2020

1. CoastsLoscil

2. Always There Part 9Motionfield

3. Eastern HorizonsJonas Munk

4. Il Tempo Della Nostra EstateFederico Mosconi

5. From Gardens Where We Feel Secure – Virginia Astley

6. All Human Beings Part 3 – Max Richter

7. Blacklight TrailTineidae

8. Fleeting PremonitionASC & Sam KDC

9. Abyss Forms (i) Eluvium

10. The Slow Descent Has Begun – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

11. Visit Me Mogwai

12. Mad Rush Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper c/w Blackbird field recordings

13. For Now I Am Winter (Nils Frahm Rework) Ólafur Arnalds

14. No Sleep No Dream’- Gia Margaret

15. Bella Ciao (Versión Lenta de la Música Original de la Serie la Casa de Papel / Money Heist) – Manu Pila

2020 April-July: Hello Old Friends

As lockdown continued, time spent listening to music on the daily walk became even more important. I discovered some old albums (Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’), uncovered some new (ExoTineidae,  more to follow…) but most of all listened to new releases from some familiar names. Three albums in particular will remind me of this period:

GlassformsBruce Brubaker & Max Cooper 

VoicesMax Richter

All Things Being EqualSonic Boom

I’ve talked about the monumental Glassforms before so I won’t bore again. It’s all here →  Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – ‘Glassforms’

Voices by Max Richter (of ‘Sleep‘ fame amongst many others), had been much hyped if you follow his work. The album is themed around the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beautiful passages of music emerge out of short readings from the declaration. All Human Beings (the lead single) is peppered throughout, sometimes ushered in by an ‘Everyone has the right….’ spoken word extract. It’s Max Richter, so it’s layered with strings and piano, just the way i like it.

There’s a download with the vinyl where you not only get the original but also a ‘voiceless’ version. That version has been soundtracking my sleep for a few weeks now. It’s gorgeous, can’t recommend it enough.

Around my birthday Sonic Boom (aka Pete Kember Spectrum/EAR and former Spacemen 3 founder) released All Things Being Equal. The first proper Spectrum/solo album since Forever Alien back in 1997. I’d continued to buy his work through the Experimental Audio Research (EAR) phase. Some work was blissful ie. Mesmerised and even Phenomona 256. It all went a bit dark from The Koner Experiment through Millennium Music, Data Rape and Live at the Dream Palace. He was making music with oscillators and, if i remember right, Speak & Spell machines. By the time he released Pestrepeller (my last EAR purchase) I was pretty much done collecting his music as the albums were becoming an increasingly challenging listen (Try Continuum, the album after Pestrepeller, it’s darker than the ocean floor). I saw him in East Kilbride of all places doing a gig with the oscillator front and centre. You had to be a diehard.

IMG_1201

He’d drifted a bit from memory over the intervening years until this release. He did release the War Sucks EP many years back which still displayed the early Sonic Boom/Spectrum sound, the sound I loved. So, All Things Being Equal was a bit out of the blue. It has all the hallmarks of a Sonic Boom album. It reminded me a lot of the Soul Kiss (Glide Devine) and High, Lows & Heavenly Blows era, as well as Recurring, the final Spacemen 3 album. He’s touring in March 2021, playing Stereo in Glasgow. Hopefully, gigs will be a thing again by then. I never realised Sonics music was missing from my life until I heard this album. Welcome back, I hope there’s plenty more to come.

Lockdown has eased, perhaps prematurely, but i’ll still be out with the headphones, far from the crowds gathering tunes for Jaykits Vol. 15. It’s shaping up nicely.

Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper – ‘Glassforms’

In really simplistic terms, this is pianist Bruce Brubaker beautifully interpreting the music of Philip Glass with Max Cooper providing the electronics and atmospherics. However, there is nothing simplistic about this phenomenal album. What Bruce Brubaker provides is the core of the album, its heart. What Max Cooper brings is the atmosphere and the monster cinematic moments. These two worlds collide perfectly.

It’s based on music by Philip Glass, but it is a ‘re-invigoration, re- contextualisation, post-modernisation,’ explains Brubaker. ‘It’s not a re- mix, it’s a new set of clothes!’. The technical element Max Cooper brings is beyond me. Apparently, he has developed his own tool/system/software with Alexander Randon which takes live feeds from the piano and transforms them into new forms. I don’t understand it, but I don’t need to. The joy is for the listener.

The main pieces are linked by various Preludes (1-5). If Philip Glass is your thing then you’ll be aware of the music interpreted, in their ‘standard’ format. There are 2 stand out moments on the album. The meandering Two Pages and the 13 minute epic Mad Rush. When Mad Rush releases, it is one of those moments that’s makes you stop and listen and wait for the hairs on the back of your neck to settle down. That has happened on each of the dozen or so listens I’ve given this album. Metamorphosis 2 is subtly enhanced, but never to the detriment of the original. Less is more, but the impact is huge.

If there is a better album in 2020 I look forward to hearing it.

I’ve pre-ordered the vinyl for it’s release on July 3rd. Incidentally, our wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary to me.

 

Listen on Spotify:

Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’

Thank you Gideon Coe. During mental health awareness week, Gideon Coe played Virginia Astley – ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure‘ (1983) in its entirety on his 6 Music ambient themed show. No interludes, no bantz, just as it was intended. If, like me, this album is new to you and you want a reference point, think The KLF ‘Chill Out’.

From Gardens is as British and summery as an album can get. It is split into 2 ‘movements’, Morning and Afternoon. It’s full of fabulous field recordings of church bells, sheep and owls to name a few. The field recordings act as transitions to the next flute or keyboard led tune. They continue on as loops in the background as the next piece starts. The whole thing forms as whimsicle masterpiece.

Many melodies sound familiar and create a feeling of nostalgia in this listener. I was humming the tunes as the album played out on 6 Music despite never having heard it. Immediate albums often loose interest fairly quickly. However, this is still going strong and I’ve no doubt will continue to.

I’ve played this a few times out on my lockdown walks in my local woodlands. It’s perfect for that. One of the benefits of lockdown is noticing nature more (when my headphones are not in). It’s inspired me to record more summer sounds. I’m currently collecting the many sounds of the blackbird for my end of year mix. Recorded from my garden where I’ve felt secure for the last few months.

If you want to purchase this you’ll have to shell out, as the CD is about £40. The vinyl seems mythical. It was reissued a few years later with the ‘Melt the Snow’ instrumentals. They’re enjoyable but they don’t enhance the core of the album. It’s not on Spotify, but thankfully YouTube has it hosted. Enjoy this.

 

 

Q1 2020 – Let the music play

You’d think I’d be hammering out the blogs given all the time I/we have on our hands these days. It’s a product of these times that I find myself tired a lot despite not travelling anywhere. I’ve always been a home lover but adjusting to it 24 hours a day has been more challenging that I imagined. Still, I’m into the groove now and am happy to start sharing some gorgeous albums from early in 2020.

It’s taken until the last month to get back immersed back into the ambient world. The first quarter of 2020 has seen many excellent releases to soothe the soul. In no particular order:

Jonas MunkMinimum Resistance

MotionfieldAlways There

Mercury KXFlow (Compilation)

The Daydream Club – Piano Project // Duets

Slow Dancing Society & ZakeMirrored

Federico Mosconi – Il Tempo Della Nostra Estate

Black TaffyOpal Wand

MogwaiZeroZeroZero OST

GhostpoetI Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep

Jonas Munk is responsible for so much of the music I love as he records as Manual and Billow Observatory. If you are a fan of either monikers, then you know what you are getting with this release. To me, it is simple, this is an album so distant and so beautiful, it’s mesmerising. There is certainly nothing hurried about Minimum Resistance.

Almost without fail I’ve played this daily during the lockdown. If, like me, you’ve struggled to settle during these times, this is an album to sit back and disappear into. I love it when I find an album that combines total ambience and euphoria. Highly recommended.

Motionfield’s Always There has a curiously frenetic (it’s all relative) start with ‘Always There Part 1’. The remaining 10 ‘parts’ wash by in a haze.

Mercury KX released the compilation album ‘FLOW’celebrating the label’s third anniversary. There are new tracks by my favourites such as Federico Albanese of The Blue Hour fame. The main sell however, is Nils Frahms’ reworking of Ólafur Arnalds’ For Now I Am Winter. It’s wonderful, as is much of the rest of Flow.

The Daydream Club – Piano Project // Duets is pretty much as the titled suggests.  ‘Plinky plonk’ as my wife once described it. Piano Project // Duets is the sixth album release by The Daydream Club and it is a decade since their debut album Overgrown. It’s duets by pianists. It works.

The Slow Dancing Society (& Zake) release Mirrored showcases both ambient techno (there’s a pulse somewhere in the distance) initially, then slowly drifting off into drones for the remainder of the album. Like Jonas Munk, an album to disappear into and relax the mind and body.

Federico Mosconi is a new name to me. I took a punt as his name appeared in my Spotify ‘Release Radar’. Really glad I did as it is gorgeous. Waves of ambience. Can’t get enough of Il Tempo Della Nostra Estate.

Black Taffy (Donovan Jones) released Opal Wand just last week. He was once a member of post-rock band This Will Destroy You explaining how I first came across his work. This album is more electronic than the others in this list and presents a blend of melody and darkness.

Mogwai are my favourite band, hands down. I’ve grown older as they have, and they always deliver an album that speaks to me at the right time in my life. Their soundtracks have been immense: Zidane, Les Revenants and the epic Atomic, clearly show that. ZeroZeroZero is another expansive soundtrack. Due to these times, it has only been released digitally to date. Can’t wait for the vinyl.

Lastly, the big surprise for me was Ghostpoet. I’d ignorantly dismissed Ghostpoet as I assumed it wasn’t for my ageing bones. I was wrong. I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep is a very musical album, clever lyrics and enough repetition to stick in the mind; ‘Selfie away, make sure you use all the filters’. My daily walk has been soundtrack by this album a lot. The biggest musical surprise for me this year.

So, it’s not been the best start to the year but, as always, the music lives on.

Best of 2019

It’s late November and apart from next weeks (Nov 29th) release of Pop Ambient 2020 there’s nothing likely to scare my annual album list. I spent a ridiculous amount of time listening to old 80s records this year. Despite that, many gems were still found in 2019.

 

#10
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Their one millionth studio album. No sign of a dip in standard.  Everything about the album is quality even down to the vinyl release – slate vinyl, shiney inner and plastic outer sleeves. It’s proper rock ‘n’ roll, with the BJM languid twist. I’m slowly working my way through purchasing the back catalogue. I fear I may never get there.

 

#9
Edwin CollinsBadbea
We saw Edwin this year playing in Dundee. Despite everything that’s happened to him he still writes great tunes and has an unmistakable voice. The tunes on Badbea stack up very well when played next to the classic Orange Juice tracks live. It’s a blessing he is still making music. It would’ve been my Scottish Album of the Year, but that’s just me. The train from Glasgow to London is still running.

 

#8
Sigur Ros presents Liminal Sleep
2.5 hours long, a more bitseize version of the Max Richter concept album Sleep. I love it when Jonsi gets all ambient on us. Works a treat as it has soundtracked my sleep many a time during 2019.

 

#7
Slow MeadowHappy Occident
I fell behind with album releases and listened a lot of ambient albums in a short space of time to catch-up. Many fell by the wayside, but Slow Meadows album shone through. I’m still playing it now and it currently soundtracks those sunrises whilst travelling to work. It’s short but perfectly formed.

 

#6
Cigarettes After SexCry
Pretty much the same as their debut album. That’s totally alright by me. A band that suits the darker nights. Somber, soporific and uplifting at the same time. Love them, love Cry.

 

#5
A Winged Victory for the SullenThe Undivided Five
Four years I’d been waiting on this. The proper studio follow up to the immense Atomos. Nothing wrong with Iris, but it was a film score. Whilst The Undivided Five doesn’t tell a story like it’s predecessor, it is packed with lush orchestration throughout. Accompanied by a ‘making of’ documentary, it showed the level of detail these two incredible artists go to when creating an album.

 

#4
Sebastian PlanoVerve
This made the start of the year interesting. An album with a story, (see full review Sebastian Plano – Verve) it is a surprise it was ever made. It’s lush atmospheric piano stuff and includes Purples, my favourite tune of 2019.

 

#3
Colm Mac Con IomaireThe River Holds Its Breath
Suggested you me by a friend at work (cheers TT). Fiddles abound, it’s instrumental and very Celtic. I found myself listening to more traditional music in the second half of the year, with Rura also being discovered. It still makes me smile whenever I hear it even though I know every twist and turn of the album. It hasn’t been released on vinyl sadly, but we live in hope.

 

#2
Thom YorkeAnima
I grew to love this over a period of time. The short movie supporting the album on Netflix helped me understand the album better. It’s electronic, downbeat and glitchy. The vinyl packaging is gorgeous, with hand drawn images on both the cardboard inner sleeves. The vinyl also includes an extra track – Ladies & Gentleman, Thank You For Coming – a borderline euro screamer. See full review Thom Yorke – Anima

 

#1
Violeta Vicci Autovia
Classical violinist (viola, electronics etc.) meets production legend Youth and an absolutely gorgeous, ambient album is born. I was blown away from first listen and I’ve grown to love it more as the months have passed. Even if you’re not an ambient lover, this is still worth a listen. Released in August, this was the first in a line of wonderful album releases, some of those mentioned above. However, Autovia remains the best. Nice white vinyl to boot.

Jaykits Vol. 14

The annual Jaykits mix. It’s been a good year.

1.     ‘Tuning Out’ – Halftribe

2.     ‘Capsules of Energy’ – Max Wurden

3.     ‘You’ve Arrived’ – Cocoon

4.     ‘The Assassination’ – Martin Phipps

5.     ‘Purples’ – Sebastian Plano

6.     ‘Eventually’ – Helios

7.     ‘Her Angled Beauty’ – Levi Patel

8.     ‘Severance’ – Ian Hawgood

9.     ‘String Quartet No. 2’ – A Winged Victory for the Sullen

10.   ‘Fevrier’ – Tiny Leaves

11.   ‘Moving On’ – Laurent Eyquem

12.   ‘Dawn Chorus’ – Thom Yorke

13.   ‘Explosions in Slow Motion’ – BvDub

14.   ‘Our Reflection’ – Max Richter

15.   ‘Rudderless’ – Chris Weeks

Thom Yorke – Anima

Album of the year alert!

I can’t stop playing this album. ANIMA, Thom Yorke’s third solo album is his most melodic and emotive work to date. Although the style hasn’t changed much since The Eraser or Tomorrows Modern Boxes, there is a rhythm that is present here which is more evident than his other 2 releases. Whilst the first 2 solo releases were also electronic and rhythmic in nature, they were not driven by it. Anima can move you physically as well as emotionally.

The album release was accompanied by a short film released on Netflix. The film shows Thom Yorke and the others dancing rhythmically in what appears to be some dystopian future, all set against 3 of the tracks on Anima. The film shows Yorke trying to escape from his grim existence, running uphill where others appear to accept their fate. Not being able to walk through turnstiles when others pass through with no problems. Losing that bag, the important bag, what’s with the bag? Watching the film helps Anima make more sense. It is beautifully choreographed with the actors (who are dancers) moving in a jerky manner along to the rhythm of the music. That’s my take on it anyway, it’s probably actually totally different.

The album is filled with glitches, baselines, dark lyrics and gorgeous swells. That influence of Flying Lotus is also very evident. It is not particularly aimed at the dance floor (however, much of Anima would work in clubs) but it is clearly electronic music. The beauty of the swells makes even the gloomiest of lyrics sound, perhaps, cheerful, but definitely poignant. Thom Yorke‘s vocal style also adding melancholy to the mix.

From the intro to Traffic with its’ breakbeats and its’ bass line, it is clear that Anima is a little bit different to what’s gone before in Thom Yorke‘s extensive back catalogue. The break towards the end of the track is big but rather than wind up and kick-in as expected, it leads into Last I Heard. From a gentle start, much is layered on, but ultimately, this tune spend its duration in the break. This ends up being one of the more ambient pieces. Twist, initially, changes all that. This is a tune of 2 halves, as midway through strings and piano take over. Layered vocals are used to great effect. It all comes to a crescendo where album highlight, Dawn Chorus, starts up. When this plays in the film, he is with his female partner (I believe his partner in real life). Standing side by side, one rolling over the other, growing ever closer. It’s a simple, beautiful bit of music. ‘If you could do it all again…’

I Am a Very Rude Person, is the weakest track on the album, but it is useful as seems to divide Anima in 2. It feels almost RnB. Not a poor track by any means but just not as strong. The glitch of Not the News is the most club friendly moment on Anima. It peaks 4 times before one of the swells appears and washes over the other layers. It’s gorgeous.

‘I thought we had a deal’, is repeated throughout The Axe. The guitar melody over a jungle rhythm = works well. On the final 2 tracks Impossible Nots and Runwayaway, the listener is reminded that Thom Yorke is in Radiohead. It’s still structured by breakbeats and basslines, but feels more like modern day Radiohead. ‘This is when you know, who your real friend are‘ is repeated over a bassline throughout Runwayaway and then it’s done. Abruptly finishing. Totally sublime.

 

Klaus Schulze – Timewind

A friend of mine does a lot of work restoring old houses. He often clears them of stuff that’s been left behind. Sometimes there’s some vinyl left over. If it is not claimed, he gets lucky. One of the albums he got, he passed onto me. That album is Klaus Schulze Timewind. My word, it’s good.

70s ambient is a rare beast for me these days, but is never forgotten. Tangerine Dream and even some Yes/Rick Wakeman still get a play now and again. The genre is another much maligned time in music. It doesn’t help when the aforementioned Rick Wakeman talks of sending out for a curry during Side 3 of Tales For Topographic Oceans when he played it live. In fact, Tales For Topographic Oceans was one of my favourite albums from that time. I can now add Timewind to the favourite list.

It is a little surprising, given the niche nature of this album, that it was a successful album for Schulze. He won an award for this, that meant it was stocked across many places of education in France. This, no doubt, contributed significantly to the units shifted. Although, i’m no expert on classical music, there are apparent references to Wagner. As was the fashion at that time, there are only 2 tracks: Bayreuth Return and Wahnfried 1883, each clocking in around the 30 minute mark.

What does it sounds like? Tangerine Dream isn’t a bad place to start. However, it is definitely more progressive and less monotonous. I am also a massive Nils Frahm fan. His tune Says reminds me of Timewind (i’d heard Says first so maybe it’s the other way around). Using only keyboards, synths and delays, the 2 pieces drift in and out of your consciousness without wavering from their core purpose. There aren’t drones in the modern sense, but the tracks are structured with that type of minor key backdrop. However, both are much lighter and very easy to listen to. The highlight is Bayreuth Return. I love the way it moves in an out, subtly shifting and changing but always maintaining the listeners interest.

2 things of note to finish:

It was reissued a while back with extra tracks. Live versions of Bayreuth Return and another track, Windy Times. Worth seeking out.

I read somewhere each track was recorded in a single take, Kudos.

I’m off to power my way through his extensive back catalogue.