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 ----------Matthew Collins - Splintered Instruments
March 2013
Damaged acoustics and broken electronica barely on the edge of songs.
Splintered Instruments is an evocative title that well captures the brittle aggression of Matthew Collins' music here. Musty walls of sound littered with fractured guitar movements and percussive crunches; coverings of dusty shrouds and nostalgic soft-focus textures; distorted layers and distant beats buried deep into the mix; faint vocals made more remote by hazy effects and a dreamy style of expression. The tracks alternate between delicate peculiarities that conjure up images of neglected attics or the flicker of old films and heaving densities of massed noise blended with almost ambient tone. Harshness is edged with gentle chiming prettiness or lulling rhythmic regularity. Promotional material explains: "Nearly all of Splintered Instruments is organic, played on acoustic instruments or sourced from physical objects and then manipulated, often considerably." In addition to guitar and bass, drums, additional percussion, clarinet, cimbalom, thermin, violin, trombone, trumpet, synth, piano and prepared piano are among the sound sources exploited - not always recognisable.

Splintered Instruments is delightfully presented - a package of handcrafted items and fragile ephemera: photo prints stored in archival paper, a small picture card, a download code on a sliver of tracing paper, an information sheet, a plectrum - oh and a CD in a thick brown card wallet. All of these things are tidily sealed into numbered envelopes and together packed into an outer brown card envelope. If you'd like to see for yourself - have a look at the Fluid Audio page for the release where everything is laid out and photographed in full. "I've spent my life under these wintery days..." is typed onto the front of the package; a one of 200 individual number is printed on a card tag stuck to the rear. Track titles are embossed/printed onto the back of the CD cover in a large simple font. The enclosed information sheet provides recording and composition and additional musician credits along with technical details and generous thanks.


Matthew Collins originally comes from Iceland, but now resides in Edinburg, Scotland; here he delivers his first solo album via Fluid Audio. The physical CD package has the lush, classiness that Fluid Audio often arranges - the music is also available in digital format. In all there are six tracks - mostly around the six minute mark, with the closing track Routine coming in at nine minutes forty one. Talking about the music Matthew says: “Emotionally this record comes out of reckoning with the destructive forces in my life. I’ve felt my whole life as if there is an immense, violent force ready to come out of me. I wanted to finally reach it and reckon with it. Here it rears its head, filtered through melody. I was completely sick of ambient. I wanted something direct, to look you straight in the eye, to involve and shake your entire body. If I could somehow take the electric guitar and melt the sound of it and play it with my body I would.” This is a forceful album of intimate individuality; a pleasing flaw in the sanitised gloss of much of today's music business. Have a look, have a listen at the Matthew Collins Bandcamp page.






 ----------Solar Fields - [ Origin #02 ]
STYLE   March 2013
Lush, broad-vision digital and acoustic downtempo.
Solar Fields further reveals the path leading to the project's current status as one of the world's foremost electronic artists: swaying grey towers of complex grandeur; thrumming multi-layered beds of electro-organic drones; driving sci-fi mechanisms of cycling grooves and throbbing bass lines. There is a constant sense of dignity and understated elegance about this music - Magnus Birgersson managing to consistently convey powerfully emotive sound images with the utmost professionalism. As with Origin # 01 this release covers much of the range of sound and style that Solar Fields had explored over the years within the downtempo genre.
IN DEPTH   Origin # 01 opens with Landform, a piece originating in 2005: smooth, pastoral, gentle introductory bars gradually building with Solar Fields' trademark deliberation into entrancing intricacy and lulling beat. This set-opener builds to a huge climax in the final moments before dissipating back into the soft mists from whence it came. Track two fades symmetrically back out of silence with a pulsing bass-line, swirling effects and environmental flourishes. Magnus weaves a Jew's harp into this ebb and flow of intensity - its distinctive sound altered, blurred. Echo (from 2008) sees something of a shift toward a more Berlin-school approach where a lazy locomotive sequence pattern underpins buoyant pads, airy strains and rich chimes. There is plenty of diversity as the album unfolds: the lustrous glow of Unknown Presence with tantalisingly delicate beat; the static and glitch-flecked build into Surface; the bright, liquid synthesiser dashes of Asteroid that morph unexpectedly into acoustic guitar and break-beat with an almost jazzy-progressive mood - you never quite know what will come next. Falling Shadows comes with a poignant explanation that this track grew out of memories of a life-threatening illness - the falling shadows of the title well-captured in the looming drama and profound intensity of the piece.
ARTWORK   Origin # 02 has a sleek, near-monochrome appearance that beautifully complements the music within. The stark, rigid lattice-work of a lonely pylon in silhouette against a metallic-blue sky, edges softened, motion-blurred, thrown into deep haze fills the three-panel spread both inside and out. The limited palette and hi-tech approach to the imagery is, at the same time, both very contemporary and wistfully dreamy. A sixteen-page booklet is tucked away into the end of this attractive digipack sleeve and postcards too accompany the package. The booklet follows Ultimae's customary format: a page for each track of the album concluding with thanks and a portrait of the artist. The imagery inside is highly evocative - atmospheric photo-impressions where lucid details twinkle within soft-focus, zoom-streaked or low-light surrounds. Recording details and some background information is printed on each page along with the running time for the relevant track.
OVERALL    Follow-up to the 2010 Origin # 01 and part two of a four-part series, Magnus Birgersson presents Origin # 02: a retrospective collection from the years 2003 through to 2009. There are ten tracks here that are so well-chosen and carefully sequenced that they could easily have been passed off as new Solar Fields album. Promotional material from Ultimae tells us that: "Warm groovy rhythms set the pace while we drift through deep electronica washed by waves of ethereal pads and mesmerizing melodies." The Ultimae website offers both audio and video opportunities to explore Origin # 02 and the Solar Fields Soundcloud page also offers the chance to listen to the tracks.
ARTIST'S THOUGHTS   Origin # 02 is an album that takes the listener through a 7-year long time-travel.





 ----------Rena Jones - Echoes

April 2013
Cutting edge, classically-elegant downtempo.
For Echoes Rena Jones broadens the live performance and collaborative aspects of her music, inviting a number of like-minded musicians to contribute their skills and visions to her uniquely graceful sound. As a result we have most noticeably two vocal tracks courtesy of Sophie Barker (known for her work with Zero 7 and Groove Armada); languid, jazz-club cool, these deeply chilled songs punctuate the album so distinctively as to almost have arisen from a different project. Other contributions include modular synth from Matt Robertson (Bjork, Lamb, Bat for Lashes), drums from Earl Harvin (Seal, Air) grand piano from Laura Scarborough (Quixotic Fusion) and solo violin from Ilya Goldberg (Emancipator). All of the trademark Rena Jones sounds are here: beautiful strings - wispy, keening, scraping, plucked, low and resonant; tranquil beats - programmed, fragile, intricate as well as live drums; tasteful electronica glitchy, lustrous and highly detailed.

ARTWORK   To date I have only the download version of this release and so can only comment on the front cover image with its complex paper sculpture centrepiece. It takes a while for all of the details of this attractive design to become apparent - faces in the shadows, inspirational quote running in rotational symmetry around the imagery.
OVERALL    Echoes comes as the fifth album from Rena Jones and follow-up to the excellent Indra's Web of 2009. The ten tracks here are explore ideas of duality inspired by the poetry of Rumi whose thought-provoking words can be found encircling the front cover paper sculpture. The music is available in a variety of digital formats as well as on CD, delivered via Rena's own Cartesian Binary label. Rena's talent and experience both as a player and composer means that Echoes has a depth and musicality not often experienced, the evolving melodies hypnotising, engrossing and inspiring the listener with a rare degree of grace and intelligence. The album can be found via Rena's website where you can also see a complete break down of the contributors to each track helping to appreciate the real collaborative nature of this release.





 ----------Audioglider - Summer Rainstorm
May 2013
Sublime electronic chill.
Audioglider delivers a sparkling EP of dreamy summer downtempo with roots tapping 1980's ethereal shoegazer music. Summer Rainstorm is aptly titled - the selection of tracks here have a lustrous sunshine sparkle to them - very laid back, very restful, warm and fresh. Lush guitar layers lying deep within reverb or echoing hypnotically are the most obvious reference to the past, whilst crisp programmed beats and blunt basslines are more forward-looking. The recordings here are very detailed in terms of evolving melodic layers and sighing climactic ebb and flow - vocal abstractions, piano touches and inventive effects all add to the variety. The first three tracks have a lazy bounce to them, dubby in places, after-hours club oriented in others; the final track Crossing Boundaries drops the pace somewhat settling into a sleepy bed of rolling twinkles and clicking waves.
ARTWORK   The artwork for this digital release captures the glow of a low sun burning in soft-focus amber depths somewhere behind a macro forest of grass. Rimmed with bright water beads one curving, ribbed blade is the only one in sharp focus- the rest fade into a blurry haze of gently bending yellow-orange verticals. As they recede, the raindrops blossom out into overlapping discs of brightness - very appealing.

Audioglider is London-based Roberto Sodano. Roberto developed his musical style through a series of projects in the 1990's delivering Netlabel and vinyl releases under various pseudonyms before settling on the Audioglider descriptive. The four-track Summer Rainstorm EP is delivered via Section Records and arrives as forerunner to a complete album soon to follow. One piece here is a collaborative recording: Crossing Boundaries sees Turkish electronica artist Infinite Groove share in crafting what is surely the EP's most tranquil track with an interlude so chilled-out as to invite drifting off. Promotional material explains that Audioglider "cites influences ranging from Ulrich Schnauss and Massive Attack, to Tori Amos and Talking Heads and you can hear shades of all of these in his music." You can discover more of this release via Audioglider's Soundcloud page and Facebook or you can visit Section Records' own website.






 ----------Kim Halliday - Birdsong In Mist
STYLE   June 2013
Cinematic instrumentals featuring instruments both electronic and acoustic.
Kim's background in film and TV shines through this album of engrossing recordings; uncluttered and atmospheric; transportational and moody. Birdsong In Mist is at times delicate and gentle with emotive piano chords and touches buoyed up on subtle electronica; in other places the music is more strident, dense with dramatic synth textures driving plaintive melodic phrases; there are even passages of heaving, metal-oriented intensity. Many tracks are beatless, having something of a neoclassical elegance, however If I wistfully echoes over a delightful downtempo beat that drags its thudding heels in similar fashion to the aching melancholy of Loss; the disquieting Bleeding Out features an ebbing-flowing sequencer rhythm of pure electronic tones whereas Steel Eye sees a complete drum kit powering electric guitar grunge chords and a darkly pumping theme. Halliday does a fine job of shifting the nature of each piece whilst maintaining a coherence of vision throughout.
ARTWORK   Birdsong in Mist arrives in a deeply saturated gatefold digipack: lush green hues bathe everything - a dark bird of shadow ascending across the front cover. Rivulets of dark green run down three of the panels trailing into painterly blotches of foliage - dream-like, evocative. The rear cover presents track titles with times alongside: the uppermost right corner peels away to reveal a small section of a musical score beneath. Here too is note indicating interactive multimedia content gathered on the disc and a QR code that directs willing scanners to the Birdsonginmist website. Inside - the green theme is retained behind the clear plastic disk holder - bird absent. On the left section is a brief biographical note, relevant credits as well as website and email details.
IN DEPTH   The primary sound of Birdsong In Mist is that of the piano - Kim Halliday fills his works with powerful emotion and this acoustic instrument seems most suited to translating this feeling for the audience. That said, there is a broad range of instrumentation here: orchestral strings creep through Victim Selection; gamelan-like chimes hang in the air of Developments Of Late and lead the exotically hypnotic Eastern Games; there are effected guitars, double bass, tape effects and found sounds. Beyond the music there is much to discover on this packed disc: a further eight pages of digital booklet content; two wallpapers images; ringtones; a musical score for Developments of Late and a video of the artist discussing his work in cinema. The additional booklet pages provide some explanation of the artist's musical approach and attitude; there are notes for each track revealing origins and processes and there is an expanded biography.

Kim Halliday has been involved in writing music for film, television, theatre, multimedia and concert stage. Birdsong In Mist is released as part of a project with PARMA Recordings on Ravello Records, bringing together several strands of his work – filmic, minimalist and dark. As promotional material points out, these recording are effective for both a focussed listening audience or for various media projects. There are fifteen pieces in all on this album ranging from just over two minutes in length through to the five and a half minute opener Developments of Late. You can explore more of this release via Kim Halliday's own website where there are sound samples and in-depth notes revealing much of the artist's output. You might also enjoy a look at the Ravello Records page that provides some additional background and purchasing links.

ARTIST'S THOUGHTS   For this album, I've tried to bring together several strands of my work - filmic, minimalist and dark - so these pieces began as sketches and studies in using software effects and processors to distort, transform or compromise some basic piano and guitar sounds, with my usual goal to comfort and disturb in equal measure. Music evokes memories in the listener, and much of my work has been in film, where music can also be used to give a sense of place, or time, or emotion, all driven at least in part by the memories and associated expectations of the audience. Some of these pieces will inevitably exploit that. Taking a familiar instrument and using studio techniques to subvert the sound is another technique I use often, and I’ve used that to a greater or lesser degree on all these pieces. Lastly I’ve used combinations of more widespread composition techniques such as sequence, augmentation, diminution, or inversion.
PROMO BLURB   Kim Halliday is an accomplished composer with a wide experience of writing music for film, television, theatre, multimedia and concert stage. His work includes scores for feature films, short films, documentaries and television, as well as pieces for multi-media, Internet and live performance.

In feature films, his work includes composing and playing on Credo, a horror film set in London, and on Pink Pumpkins At Dawn, a coming of age drama set in New Jersey. Halliday also worked on Still Crazy, assisting Clive Langer, and on a variety of projects for the Directors Guild of Great Britain, including music for theatre workshops, a series of Shakespeare workshops and the DGGB Showreel.

His work in short films includes B Movie Status, a short horror film, The Method, a film about films in a dystopian future, and Skin Flick, a comedy about aspirations and porn films, all three of which won prizes. He has also scored many other shorts, ranging in content from serious drama, through comedy, sci-fi, and even a couple of forays into musicals. Most directors who have worked with Halliday have done so more than once. Halliday’s agenda in film and media work is to provide the director with what they want – the music is just a constituent part, not more important than the whole.

Halliday’s work is designed to comfort and disturb in equal measure, and in order to achieve this he mixes conventional instruments with studio effects and unconventional sounds – for Credo he recorded sounds on location to build into a percussion set that was used throughout the score, and for other shorts, for example, he has used only voices, altered and edited, or only a single piano. For other pieces he has used found sound, recorded sound, and recycled material to obtain the required mood. He also has a growing collection of strange and wonderful instruments (a duduk, a waterphone and an autoharp, for example) that have been used on many occasions.

He has also provided music for documentaries, television, video and multimedia projects, along with sound design and music for theatre, including work for the OneWorldBirth project, (a free online video resource for birth professionals, activists and parents) and for the Writers Guild and Amnesty International.

Halliday studied Media Music at the London Film School in the early 1990s and has since worked with many LFS alumni on projects ranging from 2 minute trailers through to the full score for Credo. Before attending the Film School, Halliday was involved in all kinds of bands playing guitar, saxophone and keyboards, and is widely experienced in studio programming techniques, having his own recording facilities near to Heathrow Airport to the west of London.






 ----------Miktek - [Elsewhere]
 June 2013
Ambient, filmic downtempo.
Elsewhere is a smooth, meditative album of subtle and sparse melodies exploring the realms where luxuriant ambience and serene downtempo interplay. Tastefully understated and unhurried Miktek's recordings employ rubbery basslines thrumming, throbbing alongside sublime programmed beats that defy their electronic nature - very organic feeling - suggestive of body rhythms. Piano and piano-like lead lines swim wistfully among synthetic currents and shifting tides of tone; most tracks feature some form of melodic theme often very beautiful and melancholy. Miktek has something of a cerebral, cinematic edge to much of his music - a serious, thoughtful quality that is enhanced by the uncluttered expanses, interludes and introductions of many of the tracks.
ARTWORK   Elsewhere arrives in a gorgeously moody panoramic digipack of three sections. Metallic blue-grey hues saturate the cover photography: silken atmospheric haze and long-exposure softness giving the crepuscular beach imagery a ghostly stillness. Track titles are on the rear of the package and are expanded within the rich sixteen-page booklet to a page per track. Familiar Ultimae-style evocative photo-abstractions adorn the pages herein where isolated details, peculiar textures, motion-blur and soft-focus are major visual features. Brief credits and contact details are on an inner panel; photo credits, thanks and a dedication at the rear of the booklet.

[Elsewhere] is the first full-length album from Greek artist Miktek following a series of releases on a variety of labels including the compilations 'Greenosophy' and 'Ambrosia'. Now signed to the well-respected French Ultimae label, Mihalis Aikaterinis more fully demonstrates the depth of his musical vision, talent and professionalism. The twelve recordings here demonstrate a consistently high level of technical skill and musical imagination making for a strikingly high quality debut. Promotional material reveals that Miktek has "roots in the gothic and cold wave realms and a genuine passion for the electronic scene," - it's as if he has taken these influences and run them through a blender, expertly pouring the velvety liquid results into [Elsewhere]. Listen to the music at the Ultimae website or check out Miktek's Facebook page for further information.