Francesca Guccione's Muqataea is out now on Whales Records. On it, the Sicilian-born violinist and composer presents a deeply personal vision of chamber music. When she blends electronics with the familiar sounds of acoustic instruments, it's not so much to create contrasts as to complement their emotional resonance. And when she builds her pieces on gentle ostinatos and circling violin patterns, the aim is not to create rhythmical propulsion, but to suspend movement: The point of the loop is to make itself disappear.
We recognise these techniques as contemporary, but what makes them sound so fresh and engaging is precisely that they rekindle a seemingly lost spark: When, in the 19th century, the romantic movement emerged, audiences became smaller, withdrawing into the privacy of the salon, where performances took on an unprecedented sense of intimacy. But the inward journeys they took the listener on became ever more expansive and vivid, tending towards the state of lucid dreaming. This is the era that Guccione's approach is reviving, these are the emotional landscapes that Muqataea is transporting you to.
Read our Francesca Guccione interview.
I was listening to the new Brainstory EP Ripe on headphones while taking a long walk to Berlin's Landwehr canale on a beautiful summer day. On my way there, I was passing by a cafe which had a sign in the front window saying:
"Drink coffee, do stupid things faster with more energy."
If that is indeed the effect this drink has, then Ripe is the exact antidote to its impact: It makes you experience beautiful things slow with less energy (but in a good way).
There are very few bands who can lay claim to a unique personal sound, but Brainstory is definitely one of them: Beats are shuffling and rolling as if this were a live-played cover-version of an unknown J Dilla loop, vocal harmonies blend in the sweetest Beach-Boys-fashion and the music searches and then finds the sweet spot at the cusp between instrumental hip hop and slowed down 70s soul. Sounds drift by, outlines become blurry, tracks almost seamlessly merge from one to the next and unless you're paying close attention, it turns into a downbeat symphony in the key of haze.
If you want your music to make you more productive, then this is not the right choice. If you want it to make you happier, then it most definitely is. I was going to think a few important things through on this walk, but instead I just listened to Ripe on repeat. And you know what? I'm probably going to do the exact same thing again. Right now.
Read our Brainstory interview.
Danalogue is a musician who's often mentioned in the context of jazz. Which makes sense in a way because many of the bands he's been involved with - from Soccer96 to The Comet is Coming - are bands which originated on the London jazz circuit and whose sound, if push came to shove, probably indeed best fits that particular bill. Just like jazz, the music of Danalogue places great value on tradition and reference points, after all: The tradition of looking boldly and fearlessly into the future; the tradition of leaving established forms behind in favour of exploration; the tradition of regarding music as a tool for re-shaping society, similar to how artists and personal favourites like Terry Riley and Sun Ra, whom producer Twilite Tone, in our interview with him, referred to as "divine messengers and guides", would not just create sounds, but entire philosophies.
The most prominent aspect, however, that Danalogue has taken from jazz, is something that Greg Foat described thus:
"Jazz has a rich history of over a century which includes musicians of many different cultures. I think genres are for libraries not musicians. Jazz is not a genre. Jazz for me is ultimately freedom through knowledge. Jazz musicians come from all different parts of the world, and all are united in one commonality: mastering an instrument for the absolute freedom of self-expression and able to play in any situation. It does not matter what race, gender, sexuality, social or economic background the musician has. The only thing that matters is the music."
Intriguingly, Danalogue in our 15 Questions conversation, told us almost the exact same thing:
"I try to make music in a subconscious way, so rather than sit down to ‘write music’ I want to create moments where I can be as present and open as possible to hear the music in my head and just re-create what I hear."
Foat is talking about improvisation without using the word as such, and his poignant definition does a much better job of getting to the heart of the phenomenon than most dictionaries. The fascinating thing is that, for Danalogue, his synthesizers are as much his as instruments as the studio itself and improvisation carries over into the record making process as much as it is a form of communication on stage. The records he's been involved with have, on the one hand, been carefully refined and honed, on the other hand, they all sound spontaneous, in the moment and played on the spot, as though the songs could go any direction at the next turn.
And maybe they can: Eschewing pure solo works, all of his releases so far have been collaborative affairs, the interaction with other musicians allowing him to achieve the fascinating fusion of meticulous planning and absolute freedom that marks his approach as something entirely unique and instantly recognisable.
Read our Danalogue interview.
Western and Eastern concepts of space are fundamentally different. From the Western point of view, space is defined by the relationship between the walls and the objects contained within them. In the Eastern sense, space is defined by the relations of those inhabiting those walls. Daylighting, the new album by Passepartout Duo, searches for a balance between these perspectives.
On Daylighting, space turns into a third creative partner. Spaces are no longer just an extension of culture, nor are there places for culture to take place in. Rather, they themselves turn into creative, performative entities. The role of the musician is to is not to impose their artistic vision on the room, but to engage and interact with it, to bring it to life, make it oscillate in the frequency of the artistic vision.
As a result of this approach, what could have ended up being an incredibly delicate and dreamy music turns into something challenging and intense. Pianist Nicoletta Favari and percussionist Christopher Salvito are questioning conventional notions of their instruments, creating warm, humming soundscapes and then agitating them with glockenspiel runs, percussive patterns, analogue sequencer gargles and traces of melody, propelling them forward with gentle insistence, like the wind billowing the sails of a raft.
Who is the sender, who is the receiver? There is no longer an answer to that question:
"Music is just the way we interface with the world - everyone has their own way of navigating life, and ours is through music."
Read our Passepartout Duo interview.
When dubstep emerged in the early 2000s, it was mainly a rhythmical matrix for a generation of wilfull artists to imprint their vision on. For Shanghai-based producer Laughing Ears, the journey conversely originated in surreal mood sculptures and only gradually veered towards beats and bass. Curiously, it has made perhaps one of the most archetypal artists the genre has ever produced.
Although other artists have explored the ambient side of dubstep, Laughing Ears's approach has an unsettling depth to it, as if the grooves were only there to guide the listener further and further down into a space filled with splinters and shardes of what once used to be melodies and chords, bewildering mirror images of something once called music.
That is not to say that her music is mere abstraction. Quite in the contrary, every detail is imbued with meaning here. Already her impressive full-length Blood dealth the death of her uncle, and her new EP Losing Track, too, is testimony to using sound as a tool for self-expression and catharsis:
"Music always links to emotions, memories, mental energy. It's beyond time and space, it's universal. Music is a big driving force in a whole process, a source of energy and inspiration. You can see images or structures automatically behind the music, especially electronic music. In this fascinating way, I can describe the things I saw, the fluctuations inside of me, the impact after the trauma, It's healing me and carries my memories."
Read our Laughing Ears interview.
Ella Williams is just two full-length albums into her career as Squirrel Flower, and it is already becoming hard to keep up with her work. Preceding those two full-lengths on Polyvinyl/Full Time Hobby were two self-published releases and Williams has essentially been making and recording music for almost her entire conscious life. Even the project's name, in what has turned into a much-too-regularly debated interview topic, came up in her early childhood, before any actual music had been written – like an unconscious hunch of destiny.
Without a doubt, there would be even more Squirrel Flower music, if Williams wouldn't have to deal with the 'unfortunate' task of telling the world about Planet (i), her latest album and an impressive statement of intent. It is understandable, but slightly regrettable that one of the most written-about facts surrounding the LP is that it involves Portishead's Adrian Utley on guitar and moog. After all, what is really remarkable about Planet (i) (and revealing about its creator's confidence) is that Williams flew all the way from Boston to Bristol and then only used two tunes involving Utley (albeit, truth be told, these pieces, "I'll go running" and "To be forgotten", are stand-outs).
Clearly, then, this is not just a collection of songs, but a bigger vision, an idea of the album as a form that collects loose, mostly unpremeditated moments to discover their hidden connections. Or maybe it's just a documentation of an artist who lives and breathes music so much that she's already working on the next album while talking about the current one:
"Squirrel Flower isn't really a collaborative project, it's always been very solo, but collaboration is a huge part of my musical life outside of Squirrel Flower. There's nothing better than playing music and letting loose with other people. Usually these collaborations happen for fun with no intention of recording or actually creating something. It's about creating music together in the moment."
Read our Squirrel Flower interview.