Friday, June 24, 2011
Artist: Kazumi Tateishi Trio
Genre: Jazz, Anime OST
1. Itsumu Nando Demo
2. Tonari No Totoro
3. Gake No Ue No Ponnyo
4. Arrietty's Song
5. Umi no Mieru Machi
6. Le Temps Des Cerises
7. Ashitaka To San
8. Kimi Wo Nosete
9. Kaze No Toorimichi
10. Nausic臑 Requiem
11. Kaze No Densetsu
12. Kaerazaru Hibi
13. Take Me Home: Country Roads
14. The Rose
15. Teru No Uta
16. Le Tempes Des Cerises (Alternative take)
Anime soundtracks and jazz. A winning combination indeed. Proven here by the Kazumi Tateishi Trio.
I am sure Ghibli fans and all the like will rejoice at this album. Hearing all the already awesome ghibli music re-arranged as smooth jazz songs. But even to people not familiar with Ghibli films or music will certainly enjoy this album. I suppose it falls under the "easy listening" category, if anything. None of that esoteric music for musicians jazz. Just delightful music.
I might actually post some more of this anime jazz 'cause I really dig it and there is a surprisingly large amount of it.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Artist: Nils Okland & Sigbjorn apeland
Genre: Ambient, Classical, Folk, Jazz
1. Stusle Sundagskvelden
2. La Mélancolie
3. Belg og slag
7. Theme From Nocturne
8. Eg ser deg utfor gluggjen
9. Ole Bull-vals
10. I Rosenlund under Sagas Hall / La Folia
12. Jeg har så lun en hytte
13. Solveigs sang
14. Sylkje-Per, var.
15. La Mélancolie, var.
16. Sæterjentens Søndag
And suddenly it was June... Maintaining any kind of regular schedule was never really my intention but holy shit do I ever know how to procrastinate like a boss. There is still quite a lot I feel like sharing and once every month isn't going to cut it so I'll try to increase the pace just a little (writing this is more like a promise to myself). Anyway, bringing you a 2011 release...
I’m not quite sure how to describe this album. What troubles me most is that I found in the jazz section, except it doesn’t sound particularly jazzy at all. It sounds much more like mix between ambient, folk and classical music set within the typical haunting, ethereal frame that traditional Norwegian music tends to have. I overgeneralize but you get the drift.
Ole Bull, to whom this little album is dedicated, was a classical Norwegian composer and violinist who lived from 1810 to 1880 (i.e. Romantic era) and spent the last of his days in his fairy tale-like villa (which is open for visit, for any intrestees) on a little island off the Norwegian shores called Lysoen (which is also where the album was recorded). That much for album title explanations.
Bull was really quite a talented violin player. A virtuoso if you will. He has shared the stage with Liszt, was one of the prime inspirations for Edvard Grieg so albeit he isn’t all that popular and well known nowadays (the reality is that very little of his compositions are known to us today. Most were lost.) he was still quite big back in his days. He composed very much in the Romantic spirit (the island and the villa there are pretty much the embodiment of it), but was also greatly inspired by the traditional Norwegian folk music.
Now, about 200 years after Bull's birth, these 2 mucisians are paying their respects to this great composer and even though this album is dedicated to Ole Bull, Okland and Apeland do not blindly play his compositions from start to end. Hell, not even all songs on the album are Bull’s compositions. There’s also a bunch of Norwegian traditionals on there. What should be noted though is that all of it are arrangements by the musicians and that there is a whole lot of improvisation in play as well. So even should you be familiar with the songs, you’re going to hear something very different.
On the piano and harmonium we find Apeland, probably an unknown name to most (to me as well) but even so he has already quite a number of recordings on his name. On the violin and hardanger fiddle we find Okland who has done some work in experimental / folk as well as some work in jazz as part of the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble.
The result, well, that’s for you to hear. All in all I can say it’s quite poignant and melancholic at one time and very heartwarming at another.
Give it a spin.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Artist: Kashiwa Daisuke
Label: MIDI creative / Noble
Genre: Ambient, Post-Rock, Neo-Classical, Classical, Jazz, Glitch, Electronic
2. Write Once, Run Melos!
Today I wish to introduce to you one of the most beautiful albums by one of the most interesting present-day modern composers.
When it comes to modern day composers, the most prominent ones out there are names like Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Toru Takemitsu, Varèse and a couple more. I don’t know, I’m just tossing out some names you might be familiar with, but when discussing these modern composers, the name ‘Kashiwa Daisuke’ is unlikely to be mentioned. The guy doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page for fuck’s sake. But he’s up there along with those ‘big’ names I just mentioned. Program music I is the very proof of this.
Program Music I is, as the name cleverly implies, program music. But what exactly is this?
On the opposite end of program music we have what we call “Absolute Music” or “Pure Music”. This is a kind of concept in music used for music which stands entirely on its own. It’s not about anything; you don’t need any imagery, words, dance or whatever to understand it: It makes complete sense without all of that. You can appreciate it being oblivious to the outside world.
Program music on the other hand will not make sense if you just listen to it. Wikipedia says:
“Program music or programme music is a type of art music that attempts to musically render an extra-musical narrative.”
Another definition says:
“Program music is instrumental music that may tell a story with explicit episodes, reveal facets of a character, place, or occasion, or imitate the sounds of the world.”
In other words: there’s more than meets the eye. Or ear. It can’t be understood simply listening to it without any reference to the outside world. The term was supposedly devised by Franz Liszt. He saw that program music added an external program to the music which unfolds what the music is actually about and proceeded to give the child a name. This isn’t to say that program music didn’t exist before that of course. There are pieces dating from the Renaissance which we can without doubt consider program music. Another example everyone is familiar with is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which conveys to you the feelings and sounds and imagery of spring, summer, autumn and winter. I suppose it’s best compared to the more common term “soundscape” (albeit not quite the same).
Now, your gut might be telling you something is off here. And there is. It is still a very active discussion as to what program music really is and more importantly what it isn’t. There are people who say that all music is program music. People who are saying it should be strictly limited to stories and not feelings or sounds (which would exclude Vivaldi’s Four Seasons). And then you’ve got people saying vocal music should be included as well and so on… It’s something I’m not going to go into. What matters for us today is the fact that Program Music I by Kashiwa Daisuke is definitely and without doubt program music.
Moving on to the album: it consists of only two songs. The first one, Stella, spanning nearly 36 minutes and the second, Write Once, Run Melos, spanning over 25 minutes amounting for a total of a full hour with just 2 songs.
The first song “Stella” is based on a Japanese novel called “Night on the Galactic Railroad” by Kenji Miyazawa. It was released in 1934 and is now considered a classic in Japanese literature. It tells the story of Giovanni and Campanella who catch a train which takes off into fucking space. They meet a bunch of people and see a lot of stuff. Anyway, it’s a story often presented as a children’s story, but it really isn’t. There’s a whole bunch of underlying themes and philosophical undertones about happiness, life and the afterlife and self-sacrifice. Kashiwa Daisuke takes all that and molds it into Stella.
The second song “Write Once, Run Melos” is based on a short story by Osamu Dazai called “Hashire Melos!” or in English “Run Melos!”. It’s about a man, Melos, who, after getting arrested for assassinating the king, runs back to his hometown to witness the marriage of his sister and then back to the king for his execution in under three days while his friend takes his place in jail.
Again, Kashiwa Daisuke tries to translate this into his music. You hear him run. You hear her get married. You hear the threatening air when shit goes down.
The music without the context is already great. I didn’t know all this when I listened to it the first time and I loved it. But when you know this and have read the books it adds a new dimension to the music. It’s a really fun exercise to read the books and try to place everything in the music. I really recommend doing that, to train your active listening skills or whatever. This is really isn't music you should discard as background music while you have dinner. I could go as far as to say that it's art if that should motivate you to listen to it properly. Anyway, The books have both got decent English translations, but for those who do not like reading: Both books received anime adaptations.
“Run, Melos!” was adapted 3 times into anime. The first was an OVA (for future reference: OVA is an Original Video Animation, meaning it was directly released on video or DVD and did not receive an initial TV airing) in 1981. The second was a full length anime film released in 1992. The third adaptation is a recent one, dating from 2009. It was adapted in the series Aoi Bungaku in episodes 9 and 10.
I’m not going to go into the details of the music like other reviews might do. There’s no point in that anyway really. No sense in rambling about the jazz piano in “Write Once, Run Melos”, the instrumentation, the glitchy drums. No sense in trying to put into a box either. His music is so wide and complex, drawing influences most notably from post-rock and neo-classical music, but there is so much more as well. You’ll just hear all this stuff anyway. Suffice to say, I love this album and think it really has contributed something to electronic music so sit down and listen and don’t do anything else. Just listen.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Label: Hakai Music
Genre: Jazzcore, Punk Jazz, Noise
Sheesh. The more I think about how I'm going to fullfil my promises of my first post, the more I wonder what the hell I have gotten myself into. The main problem is that all music connects to something and if there is something I'd really like to post, it might be hard to be able to place it in your mind without having listened to several other albums first. The same goes for those other albums and it just fans out like that into infinity or until you finally hit an album or artist which is responsible for the creation or popularisation of a genre. The next problem arises here. These kinds of albums are also a child of what has been happening in the world and in music at that time and then it fans out again and then we're just back to square one. Quite the predicament I'm in...
In short, I'm just not quite sure where to start. Do I start with ritualistic tribal drums? With classical music? With blues? These are the kinds of things I am trying to figure out at this time. However I'm already expecting a more fragmented approach which will eventually fit together as a nice, yet perhaps chaotic puzzle. You and I have to realise this is really a long term thing. There are books and university courses doing the same thing I'm planning and even those can't fit it all in one book so it would seem an unreal expectation get this all over and done with in a couple of posts. We can't expect to grasp hundreds years of music in one month.
With that in mind I would today like to share with you a recent find which I simply can't get enough of. They are called '385', are from Japan and were formed in 2008. Two years later they released their first EP called '脳みそあらおう' which should hopefully translate to something along the lines of "brain washed" (Google translate doesn't make for reliable translations) and this brainwashing is perhaps a fitting title for what this album does to you. (In a good way!)
The band consists of just 3 members and occupies the keyboards (Jun Sakima), the drums (Tengan) and bass & vocals (Miya, who is an ex-member from the rock band Bleach). They play a chaotic mix between jazz and punk. It's a kind of music which definitely isn't new. In a way it goes all the way back to the 60's and has made its way back to the present since then. Jazz punk is also a genre that doesn't necessarily sound like this band. It's evolved over time and there is a regional element involved as well. Japan has this whole culture of its own going and it's causing music to develop differently than it is in 'the west', being Western Europe & North America. This is the case here as well. 385 aren't pioneering anything, and not even for the Japanese jazz punk scene because there we've had ミドリ (Midori) of which it is obvious that they served as a prime example for 385. Their sound is highly similar. This album may show a little less versatility than the sound ミドリ had going, but to fans who need their post-ミドリ fix (they unfortunately ceased activity) this album is highly recommended.
Now, the actual sound they've got going. Jun Sakima on keyboards. He's drawing a lot from regular Jazz Fusion along the lines of Herbie Hancock. The bass, Miya, on the other hand sounds more like it comes out of funk metal band. Her playing reminded my strongly of the kind of bass you hear in Maximum The Hormone. They are backed up perfectly by Tengan on drums. The vocals are primarily by Miya and range from clean, yet sharp vocals to often very harsh vocals and growls. Vocals are backed up by Sakima on keyboards. The result is a chaotic, noisy, jazzcore jazz punk band which can indeed best be compared to ミドリ's sound. What's missing though from Western jazz punk and what ミドリ had a little as well, are the free jazz influences. This actually makes it a lot more accessible, really. It may be harsh, noisy and intense; it's still far less hermetic than John Zorn's punky stuff for example.
One thing I regret though - and I regret this for a lot of music - is that I can't understand the words. I can imagine it perhaps being some nonsensical dadaist banter but the truth is I don't really know and I do wish to find out. Some time, somehow.
All in all, this is a great little album by a great little band of which I expect some great little things in the future. If they don't stick to much to this current sound (which is great), but also expand a little on it and broaden their horizons in the same manner ミドリ did, but obviously not with the same sounds - We don't need an exact copy of an inactive band - then this should definitely be a band to keep an eye on. I should note that I can imagine them giving incredible live performances. The whole place must explode because the intensity and energy they give of even on the album! If it amplifies properly in their live shows... Why I certainly hope for them to stop by somewhere close some time.
I hope you enjoy this little intermediary album for now. It's well worth the listen, whether you are a fan of ミドリ or not.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Breaking the ice or writing the first line in your book is never easy. I must admit I have stylishly done so by using a rather corny proverb. But what can I say. After all this is some sort of introductory post which should serve to provide some insight in the purpose and ideology behind this blog - whichever that may be.
I must admit that I hold a certain sense of ambition in the back of my head which I hope to see accomplished in the long run through this little blag o' mine. What springs to my mind first is music. It is something I have grown deeply involved with it ever since I bought my first Avril Lavigne album in 2002. Worry not, for I have come a long way since then and it is exactly this road I hope to convey.
Music is quite a mysterious thing. It is perhaps the only true universal language on this earth and even in this entire universe, but more on that later. The fact to the matter is that there is quite a signficant amount of music out there. Certainly more than anyone could ever hope to listen to in a lifetime. And the means through which we discover it in this presentday e-generation is fairly different from the past. In the vinyl era, avid music fans would go from record store to record store to find those weird and interesting records, often having to go all the way to the capital to find those record stores.
Right now, it's all here. On the internet. Yet it hasn't become any easier really. The question in the past may have been "Where do we find it?", but now it has become "Where do we start?". The internet and the people on there have tried hard to help you in this.One could go through lists of bands and start looking them up, one could check out all recommended bands on last.fm or one might make use of tools such as Pandora or Spotify. But where do they get you? They get you somewhere at least, for sure. And this blog aims to get you somewhere as well. Music still has to be handed to you. Especially nowadays when the radio is rarely a valid means of discovering something interesting. The same with CD stores: finding a good record store is hard and I do recommend finding one for reasons to be adressed in the future. (For now, just look for one) The avid music fan is left to his own devices in the chaotic jungle that is the internet.
This is where this blog comes in, I guess. To provide a more constructive means of discovering music. After all, unless it is handed to you, you won't know it exists. In this manner even music which is very popular in one subculture might never even reach you! This is why the selection of music on this blog isn't necesarily new releases or hard to find music. It might be, but it is not a goal to convey those new or obscure records to you. Instead it is more a long term attempt at providing a partially comprehensive introduction to music while at the same time trying to pass along those interesting records which I run into or perhaps just records I simply like (for whatever reason that may be).
A short elaboration should be made on the word choice of "partially comprehensive introduction". Using the words 'partially' and 'comprehensive' in the same sentence is obviously seems paradoxal. And it is. Yet it is what I am unfortunately forced to write. After all, if you calculated correctly, I have only been listening to music for 9 years in total of which perhaps only the last 3 were spent in an explorative manner. So in result I only know what I know. And there are many more which I don't know. There are kinds of music of which I don't know the slightest thing about, music of which I know so little I shouldn't even be allowed to formulate any sort of opinion without talking shit and then music of which I don't even know its existence! So what's trying to be accomplished here is providing a comprehensive guide of what I do know. Hence "partially comprehensive".
It is also an introduction. That means it won't cover everything (as if that's possible). It'll just include some music history, some essentials, some music which I find possesses more quality (more on what that means later as well) and a whole lot of music which I just like and would like to pass on. (It isn't all educative or intelluctual pursuit).
It was already insinuated on slightly by saying "the first thing that springs to mind" and indeed, it means there is more. This 'ere blæg will not exclusively contain music. While music will surely play an important part I have a lot more in mind that I wish to spread. This will also not be a simple sharing platform where I just post an album with perhaps some artist information and a tracklist. As this rather long text (as it is turning out to be) is implying, it will always indeed contain a little more. I will always attempt to give some extra context and personal insight in the topic at hand.It should be noted at this time that I am by no means a writer. English is not my native language nor do I have any literary talent. I will do my best to write out my toughts as clearly as possible, but when it comes to eloquent use of English, fancy metaphors and series of adjectives, I will fall short completely.
About those other things I wish to spread: I, myself, don't yet know what this will be. There might be some books I wish to recommend and who knows what else. It's something that'll point itself out in due time. You'll see where it takes you and so will I. It is more fun this way, right?
A last note should be made on the materials handed out before I actually get on with it.
On the materials
Aquiring these materials by you serves only to expand your horizon or for research purposes. This obviously doesn't reel in any cash for the people possessing the intelectual property and it is therefor I urge you to support the artists in some way. Be it going to live shows or purchasing the CD's or buying merchandise (I'm not fond of this). While I do honestly and perhaps naïvely believe spread of materials like this will eventually benefit the artist in the long run and regardless the downright hypocrisy in this, I still find it necessary to raise some awareness towards the fact that these materials are being created by artists who also attempt to make a living of this. They spent just as much time and commitment to this as you do with your job and you would not enjoy it if you offered your services for free either. (It is a more difficult discussion than this and on this, too, I will elaborate later).
That said, I will respect the desires of the artists to remove any content at any time and also ask your understanding for this.
Finally moving on to the first album I wish to share. Picking the first album was perhaps harder than writing up this introductory text. In the end I decided on a simple and nice album to quietly start us of. It bears no signficance to further posts and it doesn't require any notable background to understand it, yet it is still a most beautiful and interesting album.
The album chosen is called "Delay" by Julia Kent released in 2007 on the label 'Important Records'.
Julia Kent - Delay
Artist: Julia Kent
Label: Important Records
Genre: Contemporary Classical
03. Interlude 1
06. Interlude 2
08. Interlude 3
10. Interlude 4
14. Interlude 5
17. Interlude 6
Julia Kent is a cellist from Canada but who is based in New York. She first played with Rasputina, an all cello rock band, and later went to on to play with the highly acclaimed Antony And The Johnsons. Eventually she left and decided she should do some solo work. Which she did. And which she did well.
'Delay' is an album of looped cello music. This means it is only Kent composing and playing the music on just one cello. The way she does this is, as said, with loops. She plays a certain theme on the cello which will go on and keep looping. Over the the currently looping theme she plays something else and so on. In this manner she builds her songs and reaches what I find quite moving and touching compositions which at times may even be considered haunting.
To understand the idea behind this album we should give a quick glance at the album cover. We immediately recognize it as a scene from an airport. In combination with the title 'Delay' and the song titles which are all Airport names we can make a decent assertion as to what this album as about. In short it is about travel, or perhaps not so much about travel, but more about the time spent not travelling. I.e. the time at the airports in between all the flights. I can imagine this must have sprung forth from all the touring. Artists are on the road a lot and hopping from plane to plane and the experiences around that were the incentive to this album.
The result are fairly personal and emotive compositions which can still be enjoyed by everyone at anytime. Whether you want put it on during dinner or while chatting with some friends but perhaps it is best put on while you're on your own and sitting back relaxed in a comfortable couch while just enjoying this fine piece of music.
P.S. At the time of writing Japan was struck 5 days ago by a major earthquake and tsunami. This has caused a lot of damage and the real death count is not yet known. In addition, because of the damage 3 reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant are on the verge of a meltdown.
Having some affinity with Japan, I wish to send out my support and hope everything will turn out okay at the plant.