Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Winged Victory for the Sullen - A Winged Victory for the Sullen (2011)


For fans of: Harold Budd, The Caretaker, Pan•American

One of the things that draws me to ambient music is its simple beauty, and like Harold Budd's music, this is filled with it, no noise, no strange effects, no loops. It sounds like it's just piano and strings, and I could imagine it fitting very well as a soundtrack to a silent outer space film, maybe just as well as Eno's Apollo. This must be one of the prettiest albums I've heard in a long time. - Matthew Foster

"Starting with the steady, contemplative piano and slight feedback on the opening "We Played Some Open Chords," A Winged Victory for the Sullen can't be called a barrel of laughs per se, but their song titles -- not to mention their band name -- suggest a knowing playfulness with the conventions of moodily beautiful 21st century drone/ambient. Given that the core members are composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid veteran Adam Wiltzie, it's little surprise that both those conventions, and how to work well beyond them, are within their grasp on this debut release. Much like some Stars of the Lid releases, the album and song names may verge on the wry, but without that context, something like the slow strings and feeling of suffused sorrow on the first part of "Requiem for the Static King," or the involving textures of "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" simply are what they are, and quite beautifully so at that. While the sonic connections to the members' past work are clear, so are the distinctions; if the duo is less about full-on beautiful drones than Stars of the Lid often were, there's a similar appreciation for the slowly unfolding and the calmly insular, touchstones ranging as far as George Winston as Eno ("A Symphony Pathetique," almost exclusively piano aside from some distant shading that appears a little more clearly toward the end, is arguably the extreme of this approach on the album, elegantly done every step of the way). Even with the titular or seeming snark brought to bear, the feeling often seems simply appropriate more than anything else -- "Minuet for a Cheap Piano" is almost just that, counting the extra layered tones in the background, while "All Farewells Are Sudden" doesn't close out the album on a quick, final note but a soft, string piece fade, a slow wheezing of tone and delay that's a conclusion and a half when it comes to wrapping things up with a gentle bow." - AMG

Saturday, October 1, 2011

John Heckle - The Second Son (2011)


For fans of: Virgo Four, Mr. Fingers, Omar S

This is a classic sounding house album executed just about perfectly, with a ton of raw energy and a seductive blend of synths and naturally falling beats. It took me a while to sink into the sound, but once I did it hit me like a brick. The tracks "Inside Me" and "Red Defender" are both fantastic, and are sure to please fans of dance music new and old, house, techno, or electro. It's one of the years best and is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"John Heckle delivers a truly incredible album with 'The Second Son', a release which vividly marks him out as a true and distinctive talent in what can (at times) seem an increasingly bland and unoriginal musical form.

The ten tracks presented here come across as some sort of missing link in Chicago House history - what might have happened if the frenetic pace of developments of the late 80s and early 90s had been somewhat tempered and the considerable creative juices of the day had been allowed to swash around more freely. But that, as far as I am concerned, is what Jamal Moss's Mathematics Recordings was willed into existence for, to build upon that era's sounds, ideas, feelings, philosophy and approach, and in this artist and in this album I feel this mission has reached a milestone.

John takes those familiar feelings of classic early house and gives them his own kinda soul and energy. It all sounds familiar and brand spanking new at the same time, like you're rediscovering the intense joys of this music all over again. There is a naturalness to John's production and musicality that struck me as something like eternal Larry Heard meets classic Derrick May, served up through a Hieroglyphic Being style gritty aesthetic. And yet, his sound is very much his own distinct brand.

Whatever's going on here, this release puts a huge smile on my face and stirs something that first got stirred in me more than 17 years ago - so thanks for that Mr Heckle!!" - RonocNikcam