Jack Dangers, “Bathyscaphe Trieste”

prima007Jack Dangers has been recording, performing, and releasing music for nearly three decades in Meat Beat Manifesto, Tino Corp, and Perennial Divide. Dangers’ resume as a producer and remixer includes David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Coil, Merzbow, Twilight Circus, Public Enemy, Cranes, David Byrne and many, many more. Apart from the noise, beat, and dub driven Meat Beat Manifesto, Dangers has released numerous solo recordings probing the depths of sound of analogue synths and tape manipulation on labels such as Important Records, Shadow Records, Bella Union, Brainwashed, and his own Tapelab and Flexidisc imprints.  Bathyscaphe Trieste is more in line with his critically acclaimed releases such as the Forbidden Planet Explored, Music for Planetarium, and Electronic Music from Tapelab.

Release Date: September 17, 2013

In 1960, a two-person bathyscaphe (“deep boat”) named Trieste reached a record maximum depth in the deepest known part of the Earth’s oceans, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench near Guam. The five hour descent was made possible by the earth’s gravitational pull on nine tons of lead shot, while the three hour ascent was aided by a balloon filled with gasoline.  Only James Cameron has returned to the Challenger Deep, and is allegedly in production of a film of the journey. Dangers’ composition honoring this journey is the product of years of work, featuring super slowed down tape manipulations of anlog sythesizers (often 30x as slow), bounced from machine to machine to achieve the appropriate soundtrack for a vessel on an exploratory journey into uncharted depths under massive amounts of physical pressure.  Jack’s intention was to create music from a mysterious world which mixed at the bottom of the Mariana trench at the Challenger Deep Bedroom Quilt Studio. The disc comes with CD-ROM content of 35 minutes of video footage edited and set to music by Jack Dangers.

tracklist:

  1. Blast Off
  2. Epipelagic Zone
  3. Mesopelagic Zone – [SOUNDCLOUD STREAM]
  4. Bathypelagic Zone
  5. Abyssopelagic Zone
  6. Hadalpelagic Zone
  7. Resurfce

press:

Watery crescents delight with the soul of an analogue-based futuristic technology, leaving the audience with a wide span of trans-space that competes with the vortex of the unknown. – Igloo

Jack has the world’s only functioning EMS Synthi 100, and, damn it, he’s gonna use it. – XLR8R

discography:

  • “Sounds of the 20th Century,” Flexidisc, 2000
  • “Tape Music,” Flexidisc, 2001
  • “Variaciones Espectrales,” Bella Union, 2002
  • “Forbidden Planet Explored,” Important Records, 2004
  • “Loudness Clarifies/Electronic Music from Tapelab,” Important Records, 2004
  • “Music for Planetarium,” Brainwashed Handmade, 2008
  • “Test Signals,” Tummy Touch, 2012

“This sounds like a headline from a 90s fanzine!” — said, enthusiastically, someone I told about the fact that Jack Dangers has released a new dark ambient album. It’s a symptomatic thing: Dangers’ original project, Meat Beat Manifesto, summarized the highs and lows of semi-mainstream electronic music from said decade (initially classified as an “alternative dance” group, they went on to embrace jungle, dub, and jazz elements in their output), whereas his dissimilar solo works remain lesser known. Unaccompanied, Dangers reveals himself as a vintage experimental sound aficionado. One of the few owners of a rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer, he has created a significant body of musique concrète and electro-acoustic recordings, whose subject matter revolves around the scientific pursuits and bold exploratory dreams of bygone eras. In the 1950s and 60s, sonic discoveries driven by the use of magnetic tape existed in a particular synergy with the mindset of space conquest, architectural idealism, and technological progress; hence, it comes as no surprise that avant-garde art and radiophonic experimental studios, thriving on both sides of the Iron Curtain, often touched on these topics (perhaps best embodied by the visionary audio-kinetic works of the Soviet Prometheus Research Institute). Dangers’ work invokes these aesthetics in a discreet, implicit way, without recourse to a neo-vintage costume, positioning him as part of a continuum rather than a self-conscious pastiche artist. His previous release was the space-oriented Forbidden Planet Explored — half soundtrack to the 1950s classic, half curious analogue effects resembling the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s output. The new one, Bathyscaphe Trieste, is a visit to the oceanic depths. The titular vehicle actually existed: in 1960, the submersible and its passengers (Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh) reached the deepest known point on Earth’s hydrosphere — Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. This recording is an imagined recreation of the craft’s journey, sequentially following the stages from submergence to resurfacing. The marine disposition of Bathyscaphe Trieste initially brings to mind the halcyon Science of the Sea by Jürgen Müller, an enigmatic (and, as it transpired, fictitious) researcher and musician who was “rediscovered” in 2010 — but from a purely sonic point of view, the album floats much closer to Lustmord’s abyssal excursions. It’s dark, cold, and somewhat claustrophobic here. To recreate an atmosphere of overwhelming, pitch-black breathlessness and the incredible pressure withstood by a vessel crushed beneath the enormity of the ocean, Dangers uses analogue synthesizer recordings, considerably down-pitched, mirroring gravity and descent. The “deeper” we go, the denser and more disquieting the sound becomes. “Bathypelagic Zone” is filled with a low, menacing murmur; in the “Abyssopelagic” and “Hadalpelagic” zones, higher tones build up slowly, layer upon layer, like long, ghastly shadows. Dangers’ use of analogue hardware is not simply driven by nostalgia: he matches equipment and sound to temporal context, thereby invoking ghosts from the technological past. It’s not only the subject and sonic content that contribute to the uneasy listening experience, but also the awareness that outmoded devices can still achieve incredible ends. As proven here, old musical technology can be a powerful artifact that possesses a high haunting factor.  P.S. For those in need of cathartic decompression, Bathyscaphe Trieste is best followed by an earlier work inspired by the same intrepid journey: The Chocolate Watchband’s Voyage of The Trieste, whose mild, jazz-tinged psychedelia will provide suitable post-expedition relief. – Tiny Mix Tapes

 I absolutely love the mysteries of this record! When I first held the CD in my hand, the cover art of an X-rayed shell conveyed the inner riddles of nature with its golden ratio spirals. The back of the album features a photograph of a massive submarine in dark green waters of ocean, where light barely seeps. And then the name of the composer, Jack Dangers… now where have I heard that name before? It can’t be the same person behind the Meat Beat Manifesto project which I’ve known since the 90s, now can it? Why, yes indeed, it is the same ‘ol Dangers, who has been reserving the releases under his real name for deeper explorations in sound, featuring analog synths and tape manipulations, with records such as Forbidden Planet Explored (Important, 2004) and Music For Planetarium (Brainwashed, 2008). Ok, but I didn’t know that Dangers was also into deep-sea journeys, capturing the low rumbling howls of barely audible sounds in an isothermal environment. And here comes the last surprise of Bathyscaphe Trieste, named after a 1960 two-person free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible, which reached a record depth in the deepest known point of Earth’s seabed hydrosphere, called The Challenger Deep. The seven pieces on the record are not some captures via hydrophone at all! “Dangers’ composition honoring this journey is the product of years of work, featuring super slowed down tape manipulations of analog synthesizers (often 30x as slow), bounced from machine to machine to achieve the appropriate soundtrack for a vessel on an exploratory journey into uncharted depths under massive amounts of physical pressure.” Dangers successfully recreated the sounds at the bottom of our world, and while he certainly fooled me, he also delighted in the process! – Headphone Commute

Robert Haigh, “Darkling Streams”

prima003Robert Haigh is a veteran of UK underground music from the early eighties onwards. In the eighties he worked on seminal Nurse With Wound albums and released a series of darkly ambient albums and EPs under the name Sema. The nineties saw Haigh experimenting with atmospheric textures and sequenced rhythms under the name Omni Trio. From the mid naughties onwards Haigh has returned to his love of minimal piano counterpoint with releases on Seal Pool, Crouton, Siren and now Primary Numbers.

Release date: September 17, 2013

Darkling Streams is the awaited follow-up to the acclaimed trio of piano albums released on Siren Records between 2009 and 2011. Taking up where the Siren trilogy left off, Darkling Streams is a collection of piano miniatures with occasional wisps of shimmering electronic texture. As with the Siren releases, the pieces are intimate, atmospheric, hauntingly melodic and introspective. Shades of Satie, Harold Budd, Arvo Part, Glass and Sakamoto can be detected in these works but never to the extent of overshadowing Haigh’s distinctive expression and harmonic preoccupations. This current set stands apart, however, with the inclusion of a handful of extended pieces. Tracks such as “Fugue State,” “Of Eros And Dust,” and “Rain For Avalon” have an epic and darkly cinematic quality not heard on previous albums.

tracklist:

  1. Fugue State
  2. Remains Of A River
  3. Twice Solitaire
  4. Cage Of Shadows
  5. Darkling Streams
  6. Ipcress Girl
  7. Lunaire
  8. Mysterious Lights
  9. Of Eros And Dust
  10. Air Cerulian
  11. A Plague Of Notes
  12. Crepuscule
  13. Crepuscule 2 – [SOUNDCLOUD STREAM]
  14. Circle Of Deranged Fifths
  15. End Title
  16. Rain For Avalon

The sounds of gorgeous modern classical piano streamed out of my hi-fi into the living room!

I took a double-take at the cover, but the riddles wouldn’t break. In the 80s, Haigh worked on Nurse With Wounds albums and released dark ambient albums as Sema on Le Rey. In the 90s Haigh has developed a new ‘ambient drum’n’bass’ style and created Omni Trio, and has released The Deepest Cut (Moving Shadow, 1995), which many still recognize as the very first jungle album. How was I supposed to know that under his real name, Haigh has already released a series of modern classical works: Notes and Crossings (2009), Anonymous Lights (2010), and Strange and Secret Things (2011), all on Japanese Siren Records.

“Darkling Streams is a collection of piano miniatures with occasional wisps of shimmering electronic texture. [...] The pieces are intimate, atmospheric, hauntingly melodic and introspective.”

It would be impossible not to liken Darkling Streams to music by many classical masters. Barely reverberated keys float through the minimalist chords to construct vapors of beauty, tranquility and lull. Subtle arpeggios, appearing in similar tonalities, sprinkle the album with patience and poise. There is even a waltz appearing as “Cage of Shadows,” dancing through the flowing curtains of my open space. On “Of Eros and Dust” we hear a first echo of a synth, reminiscent of minimalist works by Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Steve Reich. Walking keys across abstract and chromatic scales of course, remind me of Ryuichi Sakamoto, and there is an essence of the last breath by Erik Satie, Henryk Gorecky, and even John Cage.

As of this writing, Darkling Streams has remained on rotation throughout the weekend, and it doesn’t subside. If anything, the music brings a particular lightness to the external atmosphere, sounding very cinematic rather than new-agey. On the last piece of the album, “Rain for Avalon“, Haigh awakens a deep bass that adds thick layer of texture to the music, mixed with distant thunder and strings, leaving me somber and aching for more. There are sixteen tracks on this album and I’m having trouble picking out a favorite. Well done, Primary Numbers – I’ve got my ear on you now! – Headphone Commute

 

Rob Haigh’s journey has been so strange and winding, you wonder if there were religious conversions, drug epiphanies, New Age revelations, or perhaps all of the above, along the way. In the mid-1980s he was a prolific player on the UK Industrial network. A multi-instrumentalist, he released music under the name Sema and with the projects Truth Club and Fote, a selection of which was collected together on a 1987 United Dairies cassette, The Best Of Rob Haigh. Discs such as Notes From Underground (1982) and Music From The Antechamber (1986) had black and white covers with stern typefaces, and images that faded into ghostly traces like Victorian family photographs.

His re-emergence just a few years later as drum ’n’ bass project Omni Trio (a name that evokes not just music of the future, but a some kind of posse of robotic superheroes, in one of Jungle’s long tradition of fictitious collectives) seemed bizarre. His 12″s for Moving Shadow – a label whose music was so pristine, plasticene and sensuous it offered the promise of some kind of utopia – were recognisable by their ecstatic almost baroque breakbeats. They came in sleeves of bold primary colours and were given simple numbered titles, like a cheerful Lego box of beats and breaks. It was if the Gothic introversion of his earlier work was a passing phase.

But Haigh’s early music had none of the grimy tape textures or cut-up disjunctions that you might associate with Industrial music. Records such as Music From The Antechamber or Juliet Of The Spirits were flowing, expressive, seemingly endless instrumental modes that suggested The Durutti Column, Sketches Of Spain or even Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. There was a sense of private bliss to this music that, if you stuck a breakbeat under it, wasn’t so far away from the endlessly rushing euphoria of Jungle. Haigh is an arranger as much a composer, which enabled him to transpose his music from secret ritual to communal rave.

But the most recent stage of Haigh’s career has been an even more unlikely detour. After Omni Trio ended in 2004, Haigh re-emerged in 2008 with several albums of solo piano music which owe much to Harold Budd and, particularly, Erik Satie, to which can now be added Darkling Streams. Several have been released on the Siren label of Daisuke Suzuki, an associate of Andrew Chalk, and both like Haigh are former Industrial musicians who have travelled the long road to emerge with music of deep, meditative beauty. Haigh’s piano pieces are disarmingly simple, almost naive, more Roger Eno than Brian Eno, and at first listen are the kind of music you might find accompanying a mainstream TV documentary. Their pastel covers and pleasantly vague titles – Written On Water, Notes And Crossings – suggest the warm embrace of the New Age or even evangelical Christianity.

But Haigh has always had a beautiful melodic touch, wherever his head was at. Omni Trio’s “Renegade Snares” (1993), despite its bad-boy title, has a beautifully understated piano figure. On “Rollin’ Heights” from the subsequent year, there is something about the span, symmetry and conciseness of the melody that evokes almost impossibly vertiginous heights. On the Omni Trio 12″s it’s not just piano but lavish arrangements that tug the heartstrings, with strings and even the drums singing the same melodies.

Darkling Streams, like recent albums, appears to be played live, with a natural inhalation/exhalation running through the flowing arpeggios, though there’s also a placid perfection to it that is oddly unnerving. Haigh has a couple of quirks to his piano style that by this point feel like signature devices – the finger-fumble across a whole note, probably from one white key to another, that sounds like a direct borrow from Satie’s Gymnopédies, rippling the calm facade of the music; and the transposition of a melodic device from one chord to another, and then to another, to the point where it begins to jar. Recent albums Anonymous Lights and Strange And Secret Things have carried an uncanny mix of easy lyricism and circling, almost obsessive repetition, like an eye returning to an almost painfully beautiful image. Here, it flows more effortlessly. “Twice Solitaire”, “Cage Of Shadows” and “Mysterious Lights” are among Haigh’s grandest pieces, the latter dancing up and down the keyboard, dabbing in almost random notes with childlike joy.

Unlike Chalk’s piano pieces, there is no sense of opaque allusion or hidden tension in those of Haigh. They are limpid, sentimental and romantic, painting pictures with the sustain pedal held tightly down. But there’s an intimacy, simplicity of gesture and an awkwardness that is utterly disarming. Darkling Streams has a bruised beauty that escapes more intricate and overtly sophisticated music. Perhaps it’s because he’s taken such a long road to get here. – Derek Walmsley, The Wire.

 

Memorable melodies, ghostly harmonies, yearning phrases, and tense, frequently circular rhythms are often the only figures populating his songs, and with them he draws up a surprisingly diverse cast of expressions and feelings. – Laughtrack

 

Whether circular or linear, these tuneful, minimal melodies are truly precious pieces, black-and-white snapshots only just beginning to yellow and curl at the edges. – Igloo

 

You’d think Haigh’s choice of instrumentation — primarily piano — would act as a limiter rather than a liberator, but the opposite is in fact true. More evidently, Haigh’s channeled a number of his contemporaries (Steve Reich and Susumu Yokota spring instantly to mind) to give these pieces authoritative heft. – The Squid’s Ear

discography:

  • “Notes from Underground” and “Theme from Hunger” (as Sema), Le Rey Records 1982
  • “Extract from Rosa Silber” (as Sema), Le Rey Records 1983
  • “Three Seasons Only,” Le Rey Records, 1984
  • “The Sylvie and Babs H-Fi Companion,” (with Nurse with Wound), United Dairies, 1985
  • “Juliet of the Spirits,” LAYLAH Anti-Records, 1985
  • “Spiral Insana,” (with Nurse with Wound), United Dairies, 1986
  • “Music from the Anti-Chamber,” LAYLAH Anti-Records, 1986
  • “Valentine Out Of Season,” and “The Best Of Robert Haigh,” United Dairies, 1987
  • “A Waltz In Plain C,” Le Rey Records, 1989
  • “A Sucked Orange” (with Nurse with Wound), United Dairies, 1990
  • “Music for the Next Millennium” (as Omni Trio), Sm:)e Communications, 1995
  • “Haunted Science” (as Omni Trio), Moving Shadow, 1996
  • “Skeleton Keys” (as Omni Trio), Moving Shadow, 1997
  • “Even Angels Cast Shadows” (as Omni Trio), Moving Shadow, 2001
  • “From the Air” (with Silent Storm), Seal Pool, 2007
  • “Written On Water,” Crouton 2008
  • “Notes And Crossings,” Siren 2009
  • “Anonymous Lights,” Siren 2010
  • “Strange and Secret Things,” Siren 2011

Aidan Baker, “Still Life”

Aidan Baker - Still LifeForget all you think you know about Aidan Baker. In his latest album, Baker strips away all the layers of noise and distortion and presents his most introspective album to date. Still Life is four serene pieces featuring only three instruments: piano, drums, and upright bass.

Still Life was recorded in the winter of 2010 at Commonwealth Studios in Toronto, Canada.

Release date: 5th July, 2011.

Ordering information is not available at this time. Please consult your favorite record stores.

tracklist:

  1. Still Lives
  2. Remembered Time – [Soundcloud]
  3. Refuge from Oblivion
  4. Complex Iconographical Symbiology

Seems like the constant supply of Nadja / Aidan Baker releases has slowed down a bit. There was a time when a week wouldn’t go by without a new releases from one or both. But if fewer releases means more like this new solo record, we’re perfectly happy with the trade off.

As most Baker/Nadja fans know, Nadja records tend toward the bombastic and the metalgaze, seeing as that’s what the duo is all about, but Baker’s solo records are where he really gets to experiment. In the beginning it was mostly like a more minimal version of Nadja, the same sort of droned out drift, just with the volume and heft dialed way back. But then Baker began trying out new sounds, varied approaches, with different instrumentation, which brings us to Still Life, which just might be the prettiest, and maybe even best, solo record we’ve heard from Baker yet. Ostensibly his ‘jazz’ record, recorded using just piano, drums and upright bass, but this isn’t like JAZZ jazz, this is like Necks jazz, droney and minimal, slow building and hypnotic, and Baker adds cool bits of weird production which only enhances the sound. Four loooong tracks, each one a dark miniature epic, the bass muted and minimal, the drums more like the skitter and sizzle of cymbals, while the piano plucks out the melancholic minor key melody, a repeated motif, that unfurls like a slowly mutating loop, it’s not until about 9 minutes in that the rest of the drum kit comes into play, and even then it’s just some barely there snare skitter, and the melody is wrapped in cool swooping effects, very subtle, but it makes the notes sound like they’re swooping in. The first track leads directly into the second, almost as if they were two parts of a single song, this part though is even more spare, the chords on the piano, separated by long expanses of minimal drum shuffle and the slow decay of the bass. This track eventually builds a bit of momentum, the drums subtly more driving, the sound a woozy, mournful lope, definitely falling within the realms of ‘doom jazz’, Baker surprisingly adept on the kit, playing the rims, and unfurling busy little flurries, that manage to add texture without being distracting, and much like the first song, you never really want it to end.

Track three begins with a flurry of piano notes, all upper register, flecked with the occasional bass pulse, the piano getting more and more blurry, Baker subtly affecting the notes, blurring them, smearing them, transforming them into a sort of Lubomyr Melnyk style shimmer, all the while Baker underpins the proceedings with the wood-on-wood click and clatter of stick on drum shell, and at about 7 minutes in, the song shifts, and the low end swoops in, the drums coalesce into a proper rhythm, and the song becomes an ominous creep, all the while that initial flurry of piano plays on in the background, the vibe dark and drowsy and late night, the low end thrum and drums eventually fade out, leaving the song to end how it began with a swirling cloud of tinkling notes on the piano.

And finally, the record finishes off with another stretched out sprawl of hazy, droney hypno-jazz, again the piano offering melody and color, while the bass thrums and rumbles, and Baker keep simple time with stick on shell again, and so it goes, for nearly 14 minutes, an epic haunting minimal drone jazz drift equal parts the Necks, Bohren and Circle at their most murky and minimal. Gorgeous, haunting, beautiful stuff. Fans of the Necks will definitely want this, as will anyone into dark, brooding minimalism and abstract doom jazz drift. – Aquarius Records

Stillleben sind auf dem Vier-Panelen-Digipack von “Still Life”, dem neuen Album von Aidan Baker, zu sehen. Momentaufnahmen aus Aidan Bakers Wohnung und Arbeitsstätte bieten interessante Einblicke in die Welt des stetig aktiven Musikers, der mit diesem Album noch viel interessantere neue Wege beschreitet.

Eigentlich sind Aidan Baker und seine Kramer Gitarre eine unzertrennliche Einheit, doch für “Still Life” hat er genau dieses Instrument beiseite gelegt. Bass, Drums und Piano sind hier die einzigen Instrument, die zum Einsatz kommen. Das Resultat ist ein darkjazziges Album, das geprägt ist von Improvisationen und einer einnehmenden Rhythmik. Auf vier Stücken, die miteinander verflochten sind, zeigt Baker, dass sein Sinn für Kompositionen auch jazzig umsetzbar ist. “Still Lives” stimmt den Hörer mit zurückhaltenden Drums und ruhigem Klavierspiel ein, das im Einklang mit dem Bass einen bedächtig fließenden Sound erzeugt. “Remembered Time” ist ähnlich aufgebaut, doch hier ist das Drumming aktiver, Bass und Piano lösen sich allmählich aus ihrer Einheit und die Variationen und Improvisationen nehmen zu. “Refuge From Oblivion” bricht die Struktur der Platte und wirkt mit seinen freejazzigen Klaviersounds wie ein unzähmbares Jazzstück, das im Verlauf durch die kraftvollen Drums an Struktur gewinnt. “Complex Iconographical Symbology” setzt da wieder an, wo das zweite Lied aufgehört hat, um hier nochmal eine rhythmische Steigerung im Drumming und Bassspiel miteinzubringen. 45 Minuten Jazzkosmos à la Aidan Baker. Ein Muss für jeden Aidan Baker Fan und Freund von Sounds wie denen von Bohren & der Club of Gore oder The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation.

“Still Life” ist auf dem neuen Label Primary Numbers auf CD erschienen. Ihr könnt die CD oder die digitale Version des Albums direkt über Broken Spine Productions, dem Shop & Label von Aidan Baker und seiner Band Nadja, beziehen. – The Post Rock

Aidan Baker is probably best known for his soundscapes that involve droning guitars and ample distortion. But this time out, on his full length Still Life, the Toronto native left the guitars at home altogether. Instead, he performs all of the instruments himself, focusing on piano, electronic manipulations, upright bass, and drums.

Still Life contains four compositions, each exceeding ten minutes in duration, that combine the gradual, inexorable drive of slowcore with inflections of a modern jazz rhythm section and flourishes of avant-classical. Baker doesn’t shy away from crunching dissonance where required. A signature example is the opening of “Refuge from Oblivion,” where cascades of punctilious piano disrupt the calm surface that pervaded the previous track.

Often, multiple layers of rhythm compete for supremacy, creating a multifaceted, but never cluttered, interplay. All the while, there is a slow-brewing underlying pulse that undergirds the whole with a supply architectural sensibility.

Artists seeking to combine experimental music and jazz should take note of Aidan’s fluent amalgamations. – Christian Carey, Sequenza21

Hot on the heels of March’s Only Stories, Aidan Baker has again put together a cohesive ambient piece that soothes and lulls. While Only Stories was essentially a reworking of Scalpel with even more minimalist tendencies, Still Life captures the concept of its title perfectly with a almost lounge-esque aesthetic. In writing this record, Baker has left his guitar at home and created four mood pieces with only piano, drums and bass.

Naturally the composition is based around the piano work, which both leads and supplements the music, bouncing on the soft and cushioned rhythm section. For the most part, Still Life is a gentle and placid arrangement – it’s an almost perfect accompaniment to lethargic winter days. Though of course Baker is not an artist to be pigeonholed, and his eccentricity shines through on several occasions – ‘Complex Iconographic Symbology’, juxtaposes rather eerily with the first two songs, conjuring an extremely dark mood that takes the record to its end. Another peculiar example is the midsection of ‘Refuge from Oblivion’, comprising of a frenetic and disorderly piano line, which, ironically, is no refuge from oblivion.

Still Life sits as another excellent addition to Baker’s burgeoning discography. As with many ambient artists, Baker has the ability to produce large quantities of music, but what easily separates Baker from others is the consistency and quality that surrounds his work. – Rasputin, Sputnik Music

Twinsistermoon, “Then Fell the Ashes…”

Twinsistermoon - Then Fell the AshesBased in France, Twinsistermoon is the project of Mehdi Ameziane, 1/2 of Natural Snow Buildings. Then Fell the Ashes… was originally released on the fantastic Blackest Rainbow label in 2010. This CD edition features slightly updated versions of the music and one bonus song, “A Fallout Shelter for Memories.”

Release date: 5th July, 2011.

Please consult your favorite record store to request the CD at this time.

tracklist:

  1. Black Nebulae
  2. 1976
  3. Ghost That Was Your Life
  4. The Big Sand
  5. Desert Prophecy [Soundcloud]
  6. Trailer
  7. Then Fell the Ashes
  8. A Fallout Shelter for Memories

 

Sometimes the dark is just the dark. Sometimes there are the things in between. Twinsistermoon fits squarely in that category of things that refuse to fit squarely within a category — confounding and restless, thick and heavy as ocean fog, and just as hard to navigate with any degree of confidence. Great news for those of us who savor a little work now and again. Look, I love ELO as much as the next guy, but you can’t eat pizza everyday, yuknow? Sometimes you gotta have dried fruit and a shot of wheatgrass and feel good about it and actually FEEL good, and wonder why you don’t do it all the time. Which is kind of the right headspace to be in with an epic folk-drone burner like Then Fell the Ashes.

Twinsistermoon is a solo project by Mehdi Ameziane of Natural Snow Buildings, a French duo who have been traversing a similar psych/folk/drone terrain since the late-’90s. The songs here alternate between shorter, psych-folk pastorals and denser experimental drone pieces, a la Birchville Cat Motel or Alastair Galbraith. Most of the folky pieces feature Ameziane emoting in his entrancing, otherworldly tenor — a voice so unapologetically pretty and delicate that I probably listened to the album three times before realizing that Ameziane wasn’t a woman. To his credit, things never get too precious or sweet — the recording quality is murky and veiled enough to keep a slight remove while seeming incredibly intimate and up close at the same time. Haunted folk pieces like “Trailer” and “Ghost That Was Your Life” open up into long-form monsters like the title track, touching on blackest drone, avant-classical piano tinkling, and the darker side of 4AD’s excursions into proto-“hauntological” (barf) gloom and ethno-folk music (This Mortal Coil, His Name Is Alive, and the heartbreakingly beautiful Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares release all come to mind).

Anyone who’s spent time attempting to delve into the worlds Ameziane is straddling here knows that it can easily and quickly become a maddening exercise in endurance. Fortunately, he works both gears incredibly well over the course of a substantial full-length. My initial trepidation at what seemed to be an almost jarring juxtaposition of modes subsided with repeated listens. Then Fell the Ashes isn’t something to be digested and understood at one sitting, nor is it going to serve very well as background music; it demands complete attention. Twinsistermoon has performed a minor miracle by creating a modern compositional/folk/drone album that manages to simultaneously hold your attention while resisting any expectations of what an “album,” as a piece, should sound like. Better still, is a moment that comes about 24 minutes into the 25 minute beast of a title track, where after almost half an hour of slowly building, shifting tonal bliss, Amaziane drops in his unearthly vocals to close out the track. The effect hits like an avalanche, and suggests a potential way forward for the project – one where drone and song co-habitate, instead of just living contentedly side-by-side. It’s a risky move, but you’ll never know what’s on the other side if you don’t jump. – Jon Treneff, Dusted

It’s comforting to know that, after copious amounts of time devoted to intense music listening, one is still able to experience sounds that inspire and evoke genuine excitement, interest, and at least a curiously amusing inability to describe or account for what has just been heard. Then Fell The Ashes…, the new album by Twinsistermoon, manages to do all of these things, which is particularly interesting since it’s actually a reworked reissue of an original version that’s been around for about a year or so.

Twinsistermoon, a.k.a. Mehdi Ameziane, is one half of French act Natural Snow Buildings, and while both acts certainly share a similar aesthetic, they are distinct enough to arouse frustration when attempting to figure out where one ends and the other begins. Both acts specialize in rich, atmospheric drone with a distinct cinematic quality. Both also stubbornly alternate almost exclusively between short, sung acoustic folk songs and long, exaggerated instrumentals, the latter variety being where a pronounced horror film influence can be more immediately heard.

Interestingly enough, Ameziane’s compositions on Ashes, as on past albums, straddle the line between aesthetic oppositions, namely the aforementioned horror element and seemingly whatever that can be assembled in contrast to it. But while horror may be one of the more obvious aesthetic and thematic links between Twinsistermoon’s albums — Ameziane has made no secret of the influence horror films have had on his music and that of Natural Snow Buildings — Then Fell The Ashes never becomes a full-on horror movie, so to speak. All the explicit fright on this album is tempered by warmth, tenderness, and wonder.

“1976,” for example, features some eerie noises that are led by an almost motherly hum (or was that some kind of instrument?), sounding equally melancholic, tender, and unsettling. On “Ghost That Was Your Life,” the third track off the album, Ameziane sings and plays a beautiful melody that’s subverted by a lo-fi texture on his voice that adds a decidedly disconcerting element. “The Big Sand” starts off with haunting voices and drone, shifts in tone to a brighter note, and then leaves abruptly, only to return with the sound of waves and a mysteriousness that ultimately gives way to a beautiful, reassuring strum of the guitar. “Trailer” picks up from where “1976” and “Ghost That Was Your Life” left off, guitar and melody hiding, a hint of the spectral in Ameziane’s unbelievably ghostlike singing.

Sure, Then Fell The Ashes doesn’t veer all that far from the sound of Twinsistermoon’s past recordings. It doesn’t even stray far in sound from the past recordings of Natural Snow Buildings. Ashes simply continues Ameziane’s forays into atmospheric ambient horror film drone folk music (!), as expected. But as has been pointed out before, this is certainly not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all. – Art Ivan, Tiny Mix Tapes

Originally released on Blackest Rainbow, as a crazy limited lp, the latest release from this Natural Snow Buildings offshoot is now available on cd (still probably quite limited). And in keeping with their collector frustrating / completist foiling MO, this digital version features “slightly updated mixes” of the original lp version, and of course one bonus track, available only here!
Twinsistermoon is the work of one half of the NSB duo, Mehdi Amaziane, he of the impossibly high and surprisingly feminine voice, which is in full effect here, soaring and lovely, sounding like some lost seventies folk songstress, while the music underneath definitely touches on classic folk and Appalachia, but quickly moves beyond, culminating in a sprawling 25 minute folkdrone epic that originally took up all of side two on the lp version, but more on that in a second.
The first half of Then Fell The Ashes… is a collection of shorter songs, beginning with a smoldering prismatic buzz, a layered raga like drone, slow building and subtly epic, which gives way to something much more stripped down, tinkling folk melodies and Amaziane’s sweetly crooned vocals. The sound so dreamy and sun dappled and washed out. The record switches gears and suddenly our ears are treated to thick swaths of soft noise drift, swirling voices, a little bit noisy, but it gradually grows more and more orchestral and melodic, before settling down into some tranquil new age shimmer, eventually slipping into delicate Appalachian dreamfolk, crystalline guitar figures, and that voice again, so dreamy and divine.
Then there’s that aforementioned epic 25 minute dreamdrone, a constantly shifting dronescape rife with swirls of warm whirring buzz, shimmery streaks of fuzzed out melody, soft focus chordal smears, layers and overtones, woozy and softly psychedelic, flecked with fragments of steel string guitar, disembodied voices, a gloriously dense and ultra lovely ur-drone that sounds like a folkier, prettier, more delicate Birchville Cat Motel, droney and dreamy and divine.
The bonus track is a gorgeous meditative dronescape. all thick metallic buzz, and haunting chantlike vocals, very haunting and liturgical sounding, lush and layered, and rife with softly swirling melodies, tinkling chimes, and hazy chordal smears, which drifts dreamily, before slipping into a brief bit of reverbed dronefolk shimmer. Gorgeous. – Aquarius Records

Last year’s Then Fell The Ashes… album somehow slipped under our radar, but Primary Numbers has re-released it with updated versions of the songs and a bonus track, and we’re all-ears. “Desert Prophecy” is a work of characteristically bleak folk craftsmanship that invokes the twists and turns of a heart on a threadbare sleeve. –Ian Pearson, Altered Zones

With a few exceptions, most of Mehdi Ameziane’s recording career can be broken down into two simple categories: “great albums” and “albums that would have been great if they had been pared down a bit.” Then Fell the Ashes… happily falls quite squarely in the former category. There is definitely some evidence here that Mehdi is continuing to evolve and improve, but the more important thing is that this is one of the most perfect distillations of everything that makes TwinSisterMoon so unique and wonderful. This is one of my favorite albums of 2010.

I have always preferred the darkly psychedelic drone side of Ameziane’s work to his folkier pieces, so I was quite pleased to discover that the bulk of Then Fell the Ashes… is devoted to his more quasi-ritualistic, otherworldly, and abstract leanings. In fact, the entire second side of the record is filled by one such work, the overwhelmingly beautiful 25-minute title piece. It is hard to make me rabidly enthusiastic about drone music, but “Then Fell the Ashes…” is just staggeringly perfect in so many ways: there is a head-spinning amount of textural activity occurring, it is hugely powerful, it’s filled with great instrumental passages, and it all seamlessly flows from crushingly dense to ghostly to fragilely melancholy without any lapses in majesty or vitality. The sad, oddly-timed cascade of guitar and piano notes near the middle stood out as particularly sublime, but I was also very impressed with how it unexpectedly evolved into an actual song at the end, like the closing credit music of an especially hallucinatory nightmare. I’m a big fan of unconventional song structures that aren’t clumsy or jarring.

While “Then Fell the Ashes…” is certainly pretty stunning from a compositional standpoint, I was equally struck by Mehdi’s skill as a producer and arranger. He weaves together an absurd number of tracks and instruments here, all of which are shimmering, flanging, rattling, swelling, or fading in some way, yet it never sounds cluttered or muddy, just gritty, psychotropic, and enveloping. Making drone music sound visceral, organic, and detached from our time is an art form all its own—I can’t fathom how long it must have have taken him to record and mix such a piece.

The six pieces on the first side maintain a similar level of excellence. My favorites are (predictably) the more drone-themed ones, particularly the massive “Black Nebulae,” which almost seems to breathe in an ominously Lovecraftian way. “The Big Sand” is equally wonderful, though markedly less unsettling. In fact, the coda is almost pastoral, as the howling pagan pipes give way to quivering organs (or treated flutes), field recordings of water and birds, and an elegantly melodic acoustic guitar motif.

The four brief “songs” are pleasant enough in a “tape hiss-damaged recording of Vashti Bunyan” kind of way, but they don’t pack quite the wallop of their lengthier, more maximalist counterparts. I’m glad they are included though; as they’re essential from a sequencing perspective: 50 solid minutes of heavy psychedelic drone would be exhausting. The occasional oases of space and intimacy go a long way towards heightening the impact of the album’s denser pieces. Also, I am pleased that the neo-folk songs are less oppressively sad than usual (“Trailer” could actually be described unironically as catchy). I suspect Mehdi is making an effort to broaden to expand his mood palette a bit and it seems to be an experiment that is working very well so far.

I expect to like every TwinSisterMoon release at this point, but Then Fell the Ashes… exceeded my expectations in every way: it sounds awesome, it doesn’t resemble anyone else, the melodies are great, the heavy parts are elephantine, and it all flows beautifully. Also, it seems like Mehdi is becoming more skilled at finding the ideal lengths for his songs on a case-by-case basis. This is a near-flawless and remarkably listenable album. Anyone curious about checking out TwinSisterMoon or Natural Snow Buildings would be wise to start here. – Anthony D’Amico, Brainwashed

samples:

When journalists mix references to two existing artists to describe another, they are often accused of journalistic shorthand. And when other components are added, the danger is compounded (‘like Band A meets Band B… on acid!’). However, TwinSisterMoon does suggest such a combination – they fall pretty darn close to the mid-ground between a Scottish folksinger and a soundtrack-happy German band. So imagine Vashti Bunyan meeting Popol Vuh late at night in a dark forest, and the result is somewhere in the vicinity of Then Fell The Ashes…

This isn’t the whole picture by a long shot. As intriguing as the above partnership might have been, there is no guarantee they would have come up with something this rich and intoxicating. Appearing only on limited vinyl, Then Fell The Ashes… could have been a lost masterpiece from the early 1970s, sought after by collectors and almost certainly appearing on the infamous Nurse With Wound list. The mix of acoustic guitars, metallic drones and a side-long epic all point in that direction. Uncovering the truth about TwinSisterMoon reveals not only its contemporary origins but also some surprises.

The most obvious surprise is that the lovely cooing feminine vocals come from the only member of the outfit, Mehdi Ameziane – who is, most assuredly, of the masculine persuasion. Ameziane is one-half of the French psychedelic folk duo Natural Snow Buildings, along with Solange Gularte (who also records solo as Isengrind). Ameziane may be prolific, but he seems content with low run editions – Then Fell The Ashes…is limited to 979, a huge quantity in comparison with the 105 originally pressed for his previous album The Hollow Mountain.

The vocals are used sparingly, however, often to lighten the mood between the dronier pieces. The opening “Black Nebulae” sets the over-riding tone with its menacing drone. Listening is like being lost in a wood full of metallic trees stripped of leaves. The sound gradually expands to include a hoard of wailing banshees (not too overt, mind – they are probably stuck in the forest next door). The sinister, jarring effect is leavened by the following track, with delicate acoustic guitar and what could be an accordion (if one wants to stick to national stereotypes). Ameziane sings on “Ghost What Was Your Life”, sounding like an enigmatic lovechild of the aforementioned Vashti and Vincent Gallo. Although the voice and acoustic guitar sound sweet enough, the menacing drone lurks just below the surface.

TwinSisterMoon really takes flight on the two longest pieces. “The Big Sand” cheats slightly by stitching two pieces together, peaking at the midway point with an angelic choral drone. After this, the song gives way to oceanic lull and an analogue synth disguised as a flute, and sounds like an outtake from a Werner Herzog movie. But the title track is the heavyweight contender. Darker, dronier and seemingly unending, it gradually builds on the sounds of “Black Nebulae” and “The Big Sand”, like an incoming tide. The mood lightens over time with a trickling piano and an acoustic guitar, which offer some colour to the texture. Eventually, Ameziane provides a welcome, but unexpected coda.

The interweaving of darker and lighter moods between tracks – and sometimes in the same track – makes Then Fall The Ashes… varied yet cohesive. Fifty minutes of unremitting drone would have discouraged all but the hardiest aficionado. Ameziane’s voice and guitar alone might have proved too twee. Striking a balance between the two results in a rewarding record, which suggests that despite his prolific work rate, Ameziane is not diluting his talent. – Jeremy Bye, The Silent Ballet