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:

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.

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.