Unifying the abstract and the anecdotal: Yui Onodera & Celer – Generic City

Posted on by 5:4 in CD/Digital releases | Leave a comment

Ambient music, like all electronic music, often displays an uneasy relationship between the final composition and the source materials from which it was made. i believe it was Luc Ferrari who coined the term ‘anecdotal’ for sounds that immediately declare their origins; while field recordings, as an art form, have become an entity in their own right these days, for some, use of such anecdotal sounds is anathema, rupturing the delicate abstract surface for which they strive. There are times when it seems as though Celer echo this sentiment; one only has to spend a little time with Poulaine, for instance, which lists cello, violin, theremin, “contact mics on oil paintings” and field recordings among other things as its sources, all of which are entirely lost, unidentifiable in the resultant ambient soup. That’s not exactly a complaint; i know from experience that the significance of a source can be justification enough for inclusion, irrespective of whether or not its identity is retained—this is music, after all, not documentary footage—and, in any case, on other releases Will and Dani have, indeed, allowed their sources to be more obviously demonstrative, such as Poulaine‘s companion release Fountain Glider and Engaged Touches. Read more

Tags: ,

Magnus Lindberg – Al largo (UK Première)

Posted on by 5:4 in Premières | Leave a comment

A little over a week ago, on 13 October, came the first UK performance of Magnus Lindberg‘s new orchestral work, Al largo, given by the London Philarmonic Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä. The title is an interesting one; as well as suggesting the musical term, associated with considerable slowness, the expression in fact refers to “being offshore, specifically referring to the moment when you reach the open sea and you don’t see the coast anymore, and what is before you is vast” (from Lindberg’s programme note).

The opening is all grand fanfares, dominated by the heavy brass (but nicely flecked with muted trumpets), out of which emerges a music in search of its own momentum. Bass drums make leaden stabs at something pulse-like, the rest of the orchestra respond with an inchoate morass of melodic tendrils; with Lindberg’s title in mind—and without wishing to get too Donald Tovey about it—this opening episode is highly suggestive of a boat slowly gathering speed. The grandiosity of the moment isn’t over-stated, however; Lindberg treads carefully through the momentous triads and imposing bass pedals, peppering the texture with softer woodwind flourishes, introducing a rapid chromatic motif that will become important later. After a short time it becomes clear that a pulse—at least, a clearly delineated one—isn’t a prerequisite for momentum, and the music charts a new path, one made particularly vibrant by the strings’ lush chords. Read more

Tags:

Mystery Mix Tape #1

Posted on by 5:4 in Mix Tapes | 5 Comments

It’s been almost three months since the last 5:4 mix tape, so here’s a fresh one, the first in a new, occasional series of “Mystery Mix Tapes”. 90 minutes of music comprising 31 tracks (well, 30 plus a snippet) and—you guessed it—you don’t get to know what they are. Go on, take a chance…

MP3 [147Mb]

10 years on: Radiohead – Kid A

Posted on by 5:4 in Anniversaries | 1 Comment

You have to work at albums like Kid A. You have to sit at home night after night and give yourself over to the paranoid millenial atmosphere as you try to decipher elliptical snatches of lyrics and puzzle out how the titles […] might refer to the songs. In other words, you have to be sixteen. […] Kid A demands the patience of the devoted; both patience and devotion become scarcer commodities once you start picking up a paycheck.

When populist scribbler Nick Hornby wrote those words in an article for the October 2000 issue of The New Yorker, he didn’t just fail to hit the nail on the head, he demonstrated he had no idea there was even a nail there. It’s sad that Kid A should have elicited such a superficial, æsthetically decrepit view, but Hornby’s was not a lone voice; assorted critics—and, no doubt, fans too—found themselves discombobulated by this album, and of course, anger and rejection so easily follow from incomprehension in simpler minds. However, in mentioning a teenage aspect, Hornby, without meaning to, actually got something right: Kid A, released 10 years ago this week, is Radiohead‘s “puberty album”, marking their musical transition from adolescence to adulthood. Hornby’s response is no different from the all-too-common parental reaction to this process, characterised by degrees of irritation and fury at how much their loved one has changed. In fact, “changed” doesn’t quite cover it; Radiohead’s remarkable progression from OK Computer, three years earlier, brings to mind the exclamation of shock from Bottom’s companion’s in Act III of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “bless thee! thou art translated!” Read more

Tags:

Vale of Glamorgan Festival: World Premières by Arvo Pärt and Arlene Sierra

Posted on by 5:4 in Premières | Leave a comment

On 9 September, a concert given at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, was for the most part concerned with the music of Arvo Pärt, featuring a new work commissioned by the festival, In Spe for wind quintet and strings. It’s a short piece, in which the winds take precedence at first: horn, oboe and bassoon take turns stating the work’s fundamental idea. The rest of the work is essentially a series of what E. E. Cummings might have called “nonvariations” on that theme; the melody is draped in constantly changing decoration, the voice moving between registers, inversions and retrogrades adding what little spice there is to be gleaned from Pärt’s agonisingly constricted use of material and harmony. Surprisingly, it all feels terribly technical; while the temptation with so much of Pärt’s music is simply to drift, switched off and blissed out, on the surface, i found myself pulled under during In Spe, staring at what lay beneath; i don’t think this is due purely to the paucity of invention on display in the work; Howard Skempton’s Lento goes round in even more demonstrably regular circles for much of its duration, but there the result is hypnotic and entirely convincing. Somehow, the material here all feels terribly workaday, almost like an exercise; unfortunately, as neither the inner workings nor their surface sheen are that interesting, this militates against In Spe, enfeebling it, even in its brief attempts at more dynamic strength. Arvo Pärt’s fans will be delighted; all the ‘tintinnabuli’ stuff is present and correct, and the piece presents them with absolutely nothing unfamiliar, nothing to think about. Read more

Tags: , , , ,

New digital release: at the magical hour when is becomes if / desert-tide

Posted on by 5:4 in CD/Digital releases, i | 1 Comment

The sonic poles of noise and pitched material are heard in delicate vein on my own new digital EP, which presents two works composed in June 2010. The shorter of the two, desert-tide, takes a gentle journey through a small, noise-based landscape. By contrast, at the magical hour when is becomes if focuses entirely on pitches, juxtaposing them in clouds and clusters ever in flux, drifting, dissipating and coalescing within a relatively narrow sonic space.

The EP is released at midnight on 2 October 2010, available only as a free digital download, through my own label Interrobang. It can be downloaded in a wide variety of formats from my Bandcamp site, here. Included with the download is a high-resolution PDF digital booklet, as well as a special offer to purchase both my CD releases at two for the price of one – an offer not to be missed!

Tags:

Purcell Room, London: Tim Benjamin and Francis Poulenc

Posted on by 5:4 in Concerts, Premières | 1 Comment

Last Thursday i journeyed to London for a small-scale concert at the Purcell Room. On paper, the concert was being given by the ensemble Radius, but in practice only the pianist was present, supporting a quartet of singers. i’ll admit to being disappointed about that; i’ve not encountered Radius before, so it was frustrating to come away still having not encountered them. Two pieces were performed: Poulenc’s one-act opera La Voix Humaine preceded by the UK première of a new work by Radius’ director Tim Benjamin titled Le Gâteau d’Anniversaire.

Benjamin’s work can’t, in any accurate sense, be called an opera, comprising a single scene of barely 30 minutes’ duration. What Benjamin has produced, in fact, is akin more to a dramatic scena, except that it’s intended to be funny, so i guess we should rightly call it a dramatic scena buffa (or something like that). What unfolds is a dream sequence in which the protagonist, Louis, a baker by trade, receives visions from a pair of women who, at length, coax, encourage and downright insist that the reluctant Louis disregard bread-making for a time and bake them a cake. In the epilogue, Louis is awakened by his sisters, only to be reminded it’s their birthday, and that he’d agreed to provide his services to mark the occasion; no resistance from Louis this time, and the preparations begin. That’s it; except that Tim Benjamin’s lengthy programme note expounds the notion that the work is a “theatrical investigation” into “the oppression of, and liberation from, accepted convention and custom” as well as “the power of the subconscious to influence the conscious self through the medium of dreams”. Read more

Tags: , , , ,