Sunday, November 23, 2008

György Ligeti - Clear or Cloudy [Box Set]

In tribute to the great Hungarian iconoclast who passed away in 2006, Deutsche Grammophon released this affordable collection of his works spanning the 1960s to 1990s. The selections are varied, covering the many facets of Ligeti's personality and invention in a wide range of formats.

Disk 1:
Sonata for Solo Cello
Bagatelles for Wind Quintet
String Quartet No.1
Ten Pieces for Wind Quintet
String Quartet No.2

Disk 2:
Lux Aeterna
Organ Study No.1: Harmonies

Disk 3:
Aventures for 3 singers and 7 instrumentalists
Nouvelles Aventures
Concerto for Violincello and Orchestra
Chamber Concerto
Mysteries of the Macabre
Double Concerto for Flute and Oboe

Disk 4:
The Big Turtle Fanfare from The South China Sea
3 Pieces for 2 Pianos
Etude for Piano, Book 1, No.2
Etude for Piano, Book 1, No.4
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

A great deal could be said about all of these works and the composer in general, but suffice to say he was one of the most influential and creative figures of late 20th century music; though his imaginative process was frequently confounding, his music still displays a sense of playful joy.

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Download Disk 4
Own it New for 22.43!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tim Hecker - Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again

Tim Hecker is one of Canada's foremost experimental ambient artists, and many of the track titles on this seamless album reflect the cold atmosphere of his country. Names like "Music for Tundra", "Arctic Loner's Rock", and "Boreal Kiss" evoke strong images, and the music itself does the same; it would be a fitting soundtrack for a desolate expanse of ice or slowly flowing glacier. The songs are constructed mainly from purely digital means, with beautiful shimmering drones, crackles, pops, hisses, creaks, clicks, and synthesized melodies. Occasionally we also hear recognizable instruments and vocal samples, which make the album more emotionally accessible. Most of the material has a melancholic and nostalgic feel to it, perfect to accompany oneself during a solitary night under a sky full of stars.

Purchase starting from $10.55

Friday, November 14, 2008

Keith Jarrett - The Carnegie Hall Concert

This concert was recorded in late 2005, but only released nearly a year later as a double album. It depicts Jarrett in top form, engaging in the purely improvised odysseys that made him famous. Fans of The Koln Concert, La Scala, and the Vienna Concert have surprises in store regarding the format of this solo date; for after returning to live performance after years of battle with chronic fatigue syndrome, Jarrett found he no longer had the stamina required for 40+ minute sojourns into the limits of his and the piano's capabilities. Now he conducts his improvisations as a series of shorts ranging from 3 to 10 minutes, where each vignette is directly influenced by the one preceding it (the opening improvisation is very abstract indeed). Much of the music here is dense and challenging, but it is also endlessly rewarding, as repeated listens reveal great depth and deliberation in his stream-of-conscious playing. After 10 of these miniature marvels, Jarrett closes the set with a superb encore of 5 standards, including his own compositions "Paint My Heart Red" and "My Song". Another fantastic look at arguably the greatest living genius of jazz piano.

Download Part 1
Download Part 2
Purchase New for $15.49

Monday, November 3, 2008

Shuttle 358 - Optimal.LP

I can hardly describe this album better than was done by AmbiEntrance back on July 25, 1999:

optimal.lp draws heavily from the microscopic and ostensibly souless world of digital electrons, giving them loose structure, warmth and life by way of stunningly arranged sound patterns. In this most impressive debut, shuttle358 (a.k.a. Dan Abrams) has constructed a definitive ambient/electronic blend. For further insights, see this month's interview with Taylor Deupree of 12k.

Generating its own bio-mechanical atmosphere, a hazy, rhythmic echosystem opens swarm, to be joined by thinly hovering rays, muted notes and occasional insectoid electronic accompaniment. Sweeping over bug-like sound patterns and a bed of static, slowly in... casually drones in a straight line, with further accents from smooth bell-tones. Airy synthflow adorned by a faint shuffle, and slightly disruptive microbursts is next (1:49).

Echoing with self-replicating patterns and just a bit of grit, gone goes peacefully amidst a radiant electron mist, overlain with synth strata. A thin, computerized techno-tribal beat penetrates the free-floating dronecloud of optimal, which simply basks in its lovely radiation field. A distorted voice twice questions the listener of floops which proceeds to sing a story of abstract electronics which pulse, drone, warble and waft oh-so-beautifully.

Beginning as an evolving sonic protoplasm, emergent eventually spawns small beats which rise from its densely simmering miasma. A cyclic techno-mechanical backdrop is draped with lushly swelling synth sheets in system (8:35), which receives additional visitations from electrically warbling fly-bys, muffled notes and precise, tinny syncopation. From a random gel, tank grows into something a bit more active, as its dully chiming notes begin to cascade and multiply in a gorgeously geometric soundsculpture; eventually the form suffers entropy, fading away and falling apart, though achingly lovely all the while.

Operating as shuttle358, Dan Abrams proves that the "cold" mechanics of computerized sound can be given distinct warmth and beauty. optimal.lp absolutely radiates with a dazzling blend of precision and passion, evoking a hearty 9.4. Seriously, you'd best be getting over to the 12k website and getting your copy of this masterpiece; it's limited to 500 copies...
...and those 500 copies have long been sold. Today the album is only available for download.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Alog - Duck-Rabbit

"Norwegian duo Alog's second CD is "As Complicated and as Beautiful as Always," to quote one of the track titles. The rich constructions of samples and real instruments, both reassembled on the computer after the initial improvisations, continue to challenge the mind, but this time around the duo has shifted its focus. While 1999's Red Shift Swing showed a strange but definite filiation with jazz (both free and lounge, go figure), Duck-Rabbit is an ersatz distillation of pop and techno. The album title itself illustrates the kind of Frankenstein-inspired surgery that Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugen accomplish. The important thing is that the resulting creature lives. The danger was to fall into a recipe, something Alog cleverly avoided by varying its inspirations and sources. The music itself sounds just a bit less convincing, or maybe it is only because it requires a little more effort from the listener. Highlights include "Violence and Magical Danger" (nice voice samples providing a chilling effect), the title track, and "Idea-Changing Liquid Alchemy," the latter being one of the group's easiest tracks but also a very successful one. The closing "Drunk DJs" represents the biggest surprise: an acoustic guitar duet, the antithesis of everything that came before. What's even more surprising is that one can only agree this was the best way to end Duck-Rabbit. " - Francois Couture, AMG