Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Illumination - Harmony & Decay

I was directed to Illumination, a name-your-price Bandcamp release, by a comment on this blog from Thomas Lindsey, one half of the duo Harmony & Decay. One of the great things about being involved in the netlabel, podcast and ambient/experimental/noise scene is the serendipity of hearing from other musicians who are barking up the same or some similar tree, and I'm just sorry this review may come a little late to do much good for an October 2012 release.

Reading over the duo's website after listening to Illumination a couple of times, I was not surprised to learn that Harmony & Decay is the experimental project of two professional musicians exploring minimalism as an alternative to the more structured and note-intensive styles they encounter in their day jobs, or, as expressed on their website, a means getting "back to the basic roots of sound, as opposed to notes." This is a feeling shared by a lot of us, but what I really like about their work is the fact that much of their sound is notes. That is, though the tracks on Illumination reveal a lot of thoughtful sound design techniques incorporating tasteful bits of glitch and (probably) some field recordings, what really stands out to me is the sense of a restrained melodic impulse underpinning each of the tunes. "Burning Sky" and "As the Phantom Breeze Whispers" in particular evolve on top of spaciously beguiling phrases, with "Burning Sky" being for me the standout track on the release.

Another facet of the release which speaks to the duo's professionalism and breadth of musical experience is the tastefulness of the arrangements. These pieces are not the effects-heavy walls of sound that one so often encounters in the realm of dark ambient soundscapes, but instead communicate a thoughtful, deep and thoroughly conceived approach to actual minimalism. Taken together, these characteristics of Illumination make it remarkable for being simultaneously inventive and refreshingly straight forward, and I look forward to hearing more from Harmony & Decay.

Monday, February 18, 2013

New Binaural Banjo Episode

I posted a tune this evening over at my alter-ego site, to which I think I should go ahead and own up. It's kind of the airy, melodic light ambient side of my musical self. Like Prince in his Spooky Electric phase or whatever. Anyway, the companion blog is the Binaural Banjo, and I've been at it since 2007 so there's a lot of stuff up there, some of which is kind of noisy and experimental and should appeal to folks who like my darker drone music. Plus all the tunes have binaural beats for meditative effects and make pretty good headphone listening at low volumes. I enjoy it a lot and those who don't know about it might like it, too.

The mp3 includes embedded artwork.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Almost there. Maybe a couple more to post tomorrow. Click to listen or right click to download.



Another from Prosthetic Frequencies. Click to listen or right click to download.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Another refugee from the Prosthetic Frequencies podcast. Click to listen or right click to download.



Previously published on the Prosthetic Frequencies podcast. Click to listen or right click to download.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Off - Markus Mehr

Off, the final installment in Markus Mehr's ambient noise triptych which also includes the luminous releases In and On, dropped last week at Australia-based Hidden Shoal Recordings. The single, 42 minute long form piece mixes new samples and loops with numerous textures reconizable from the preceding releases, all woven together in a concoction that is by turns dazzlingly bright, hauntingly deep and wholly engaging.

On a first listen, it is the composition and pacing that really stand out. Brief melodic intervals are linked by passages of deep, trance like and multi-textured drones.Choral samples become interlaced with distorted guitar, glitch plays counterpoint to piano and evocative synth passages evolve almost spontaneously, as if the composer is allowing us a time out to pause, catch our breaths and reflect on what has come before and how we might deal with all that is to come. There is a mind boggling breadth of ideas and moments captured in the piece, and yet no thought or melodic impulse receives less than full consideration. Indeed, it is this deep attention to detail which amazed me on my first listen to In, and which now bears full fruit in Off.

I have immensely enjoyed all of the releases in the triptych but Off is in my opinion the strongest and most complete of the three, and is well worth the wait of almost a year since In was released. I look forward to future listens and to finally getting to hear the complete triptych from start to finish. I've wondered much at the preposition titles, with the implied movement away from a focal point or gravitational center. Hopefully I'll have the opportunity to comment further on it after a few more listens. For now I simply want to get this review out quickly while there is still time to do some good for Mr. Mehr by encourgaging fans of ambient, experimental and noise music to drop by Hidden Shoals and get their hands on In, On, and (if no other), Off.

Markus Mehr: http://markusmehr.de/
Hidden Shoal Recordings: http://music.hiddenshoal.com/