Meditative Music 3 – Synth Tones that Heal

Pulse Emitter - Meditative Music 3

A few weeks back I was completely surprised by a little package I received in the mail.  Upon opening the gift, I cracked a smile- followed by a few cuss words (this dude is kicking my ass).  It was another Pulse Emitter new age disc: Meditative Music 3.  If releasing current new age music was a competition, then Daryl is the champion.  Take the packaging for instance: the pastel-tinted nature photos, the CD case itself, the one-line description on each disc… it all lends itself so perfectly to being something you’d find at a yoga studio’s gift shop.  On top of that, these discs are totally self-released and the music is comprised of minimal synth tones that truly have healing qualities.  These CDs are totally legit.

Meditative Music 3 couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.  I’m totally excited about this series, but since I had reviewed the other installments (see this post) a few months back, I felt like I needed a new approach to writing about this one.  The stars must have been aligned because I injured my back and decided to make an appointment with a massage therapist.  This provided me with the perfect opportunity to give this music the kind of listening it deserves.  The masseuse was super cool and allowed me to play the disc in her boom box after reading the one-line description on the back of the case: placid waves for reflective times.

A slow fade from silence gives way to the rising tones that transform your consciousness into a dense underwater cloud of plankton.  Families of micro-organisms lie static and hovering just beneath the surface.  They harness the power of the sun, soaking up the solar energy, contributing to the natural cycle of life.  Dense analog vibrations are contrasted by crisp, digital metallics.  These bell-like FM synthesis tones encapsulate the piece in crystals.  “Does this feel tender?”  Those were the words that brought me back from my oceanic dreamworld, and they really couldn’t have been better put.

Clocking in at exactly 60 minutes, this is the perfect music for massage.  It was so perfect in fact, that the masseuse inquired about how she might purchase a copy of it.  You can buy them from him directly here: synthnoise.com or from Tomentosa.  If you are a fan of synth music, of new age or of anything P.E.-related… all three of these CDs are highly recommended.

In Portland on Thursday, April 30th, I highly recommend checking out Pulse Emitter perform at DunesBrother Raven will be one of the opening acts, alongside Weird Fiction (live video), Sean Ongley & Regosphere.

Buffle’s Cavernicole C10 tape

Buffle Cavernicole Tape

Short and sweet, Buffle leads the listener into an odd, multicolored world where things happen in reverse.  This is strange music that moves like a lone opossum in search of her lunch… and maybe that lunch will consist of green-glow earthworms?  Here, the trio recreates the consciousness of a malformed creature operating on a pile of ancient mechanical devices.  Guitars, tape manipulations, miscellaneous percussion and toy-sized electronics bounce along in a quirky happy-time fantasy-world.  These semi-randomized improvisations sputter and pluck about, occasionally landing in a miniature forward moving jam – but only momentarily.  Packaged in a clear front/blue back case with a single sided cover and a crazy-cool sticker –  this is a great tape to add to your Belgian weird/positive music collection.

Italian tape label Relax Produzioni is responsible for releasing this tape by the Brussels-based band in 2008.  Find out more info about Buffle here: http://www.myspace.com/buffle AND http://buffle.tk/

And to get a taste of what this music sounds like – take a look at this youtube video (I think this track is on the tape): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrzC1gFjW5E

One of James Ferraro’s many, many, many…

James Ferraro

It’s hard to figure out where to start with the dudes in The Skaters.  James Ferraro and Spencer Clark are crazy productive, sometimes releasing five things at once.  Most of these are released as CDRs, some as tapes, and there are few LPs out there.  Approaching their stuff is a difficult task, and I have a hard time figuring out how to do it unless I relay my own experience with their music…

I first heard The Skaters a few years back.  My first reaction was to put something else on real quick. Every now and again, I found myself going back to it. Something about their work made me curious.  A friend of mine touring in California played with them one night.  He described the Skaters as two weirdos playing all their sounds through some ghetto karaoke box.  I remember thinking that that was an extremely good description of what the music sounded like. But after I heard that, I began downloading tons of their stuff – in hopes of figuring out what it was they were trying to do.  Like I said, it is not immediately apparent.

Months later I was completely stumped by one of Jame’s Ferraro’s side projects: Lamborghini Crystal.  Discogs credits two members: both him and JC Peavey (I noticed in the comments of a post on the Root Strata Blog someone posted that this guy is from Canada). I remember finding about four releases on someone’s server somewhere, not knowing this was at all related to James Ferraro.  Again I was just completely baffled.  What in the hell is even going on here?  All the sounds exist in such a limited frequency band that you’ll be lucky to recognize anything as even remotely related to reality.  And this is what got me hooked…

My first Skaters related purchase was James Ferraro’s Last American Hero-Adrenaline’s End. It’s a fairly recent tape released near the end of 2008 and on one of my favorite labels: Taped Sounds (which by the way, I just noticed has been restocked by Tomentosa).  This tape sounds like the cover looks – like a bar band of badasses in a small town’s back-corner tavern.  Bluesy guitar riffs over synth and drum machine – but with an odd twist: would-be ‘powerful’ transitions are left out, as if the material was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.  Ferraro applies some less than subtle re-edits to take out some of testosterone.  This elevates the work to the place where earth’s sky reaches outerspace.  Not only do these tracks hit, but they surprise the listener.  Another thing I should mention – this isn’t the typical ultra lo-fi sound Skater’s related projects are known for – there’s actually a little low end happening here.  An excellent work and a huge congrats to Ferraro.

Also, if you need a primer on Skaters-related stuff – I recommend checking out this blog: http://surrealapplications.blogspot.com/ There’s a few blogs and other sites out there that make it easy to find rips of their releases, but please support artists by purchasing their works.

Meditating Eternity: The New Age CDs of Pulse Emitter

Meditative Music 1 & 2

Up until a couple weeks ago, I had only heard a few tracks by fellow NW-based experimental musician Pulse Emitter, but that was reason enough for us to send him our first gift (GT000).   Daryl Groetsch of Pulse Emitter generously mailed us both of his Meditative Music releases.  I haven’t reviewed anything on a digital format yet, but these leave me no choice.  This is my attempt to explain how insanely great these discs are…

Meditative Music 1 is a minimalist piece where flowing breezes of analog modular synth  are contrasted by slow moving waves of FM synthesis, rising and falling over glorious peaks of quiet mountainsides.  The patches are meticulously programmed and detailed in complexity, yet the music sounds as though a new form of plant life has emerged from the earth.  Natural and easing mellow vibrations paint an environment that serves as an escape from the chaos of our man made surroundings.  Its gentle and contemplative tones are steeped in sleepiness, rich with a resting thickness; this is hypnotic levitation at its best.

Daryl sent me a copy of something he posted on a forum about the first disc:

“while helping my girlfriend select ambient music to use while giving massages, i became interested in all the factors that ruled out certain releases. too ominous, too rhythmic, too schmaltzy… so i decided to record one myself. it’s one track, 60 minutes long. two oscillators on the analog modular tuned in fifths, slowly sweeping back and forth with the filter and across the stereo field in a repetitive yet unpredictable way, continuous warm shifting drone. then a slow four note motive is played in four permutations on a custom patched yamaha TX81Z FM synth, crystal pools of sound. yeah, it’s peaceful ambient music but it’s not overly positive or negative, very balanced in emotion and structure. good for sleeping, thinking, bathing, whatever. it’s not noise music but i’m posting it here anyway… it would probably be good to listen to after a noise show actually.”

Meditative Music 2 opens in windstorm, the listener tucked away in a shallow cave at the base of a ravine.  Heavy raindrops fall from the evergreens onto the  crumbling stone above.  The swift breeze rises and falls, giving way to brief glimpses of the sound of a passing stream.  On occasion a carefully woven synthesized melody will remind the listener that they are in fact listening to music.  These sounds have the affect of transforming humans into creatures of the woods, like an elk’s lone stray from the rest of the herd.

The sounds of the second disc are so natural sounding that I had to ask him if there were field recordings involved…  this was his answer:

“there are no field recordings, all synth. the second disc was inspired by a hike in the woods, listening to a stream.”

It makes me happy that Pulse Emitter is Portland-based.  You can find out more on his website: synthnoise.com.  Another thing I should mention that might interest any DIY Synthers… Daryl Groetsch has a degree in Electrical Engineering and he’s got a few schematics of things he’s designed on his website.  I also recommend taking a look at the picture of his crazy synth. And, if you’re in NYC in mid-May, be sure to check out his set at NO FUN.

Rest in Peace Klaus Wiese

Klaus Wiese RIP

I recently found out that German-based ambient musician Klaus Wiese passed away on January 27th.  From what I was able to gather, he passed away in his sleep at his girlfriend’s house at the age of  67 in Ulm, Germany.  Sad news indeed, but when it’s time to embark on a journey to the spirit world, that is the way to do it.  His legacy as an experimental composer will live on.

Wiese’s music fits into the minimalist ambient spectrum of experimental music.  Inspired by both Sufism and Mysticism, his works often take the form of dense, spiritual dronescapes; they’re peaceful, but they emit an open heaviness that allows the linkage of the earthbound listener’s own soul and the eternal heavens.  His solo discography is overwhelming – just one glance at his Discogs entry will have you reeling – but his collaborative work is also impressive.  In addition to appearing on two Popul Vuh releases (Hosianna Mantra & Seligpreisung), he has regularly worked with Al Gromer Khan, Mathias Grassow & Oöphoi.

I’m amazed by how similar a lot of contemporary works in the noise/new age/experimental scene sound to Klaus Wiese’s work.  Take the Emerald’s for instance, three young musicians at the top of their game, making super minimal drone music with mostly vintage synths.  You could probably take a Wiese track, run it through a filter and distortion pedal and you’d have something sounding very similar to the Emeralds.

I acquired a copy of Klaus Wiese’s Alhambra on cassette for the purpose of reviewing one of his works (you might notice that I only review releases I have a physical copy of).  I’m more familiar with his later work, so I chose something closer to the beginning stages of his solo work (not to mention, you can still buy it on cassette), a release from 1986.  I believe one of his regular collaborators, Mathias Grassow, is now operating the store on www.klaus-wiese.com.

Alhambra is a suiting title for the work.  Wikipedia translates it to “the red one” or the “red fortress” and describes it as “a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish rulers of Granada in southern Spain”.   It is a fortress.  Two deep drone works comprised of synthesized strings and voice, filtered vocals, reverberations, organ and mandolin make up the whole of the tape.  The first, The Violet Rose, is a slowly oscillating drone whose instrumentation hovers around a single note.  It is reminiscent of David Parsons’ Sounds of the Mothership, but seems to access another side of the spirit world, among the dense dark forests hidden in the shadows.   The other piece is titled The Moorish Princess.  It has a similar vibe, but with the addition of passionate female vocals in parts – remember, this is ’86 (this is some serious new f’ing age).  I highly recommend the purchase of this album.  It’s relaxing, meditative and emotional all wrapped into a nice new age package.  Did I mention that you can still purchase this on cassette?

I found some of his more recent music posted online – these two are pretty good: Perfume (2006) & Gnosis (2004)

Mist, Certain Expansion on Pizza Wagon

Mist ~ Certain Expansion

Mist, Certain Expansion, released on Pizza Wagon (#1), C20, Ltd 100

This is an excellent tape by the synth duo side-project of Sam Goldberg & John Elliot… Mist.  I believe that this is Sam’s Pizza Night label & Wagon combining forces (see Discogs entry & Volcanic Tongue pages), both based in the super fresh experimental music capitol: Cleveland, OH.  Both musicians are serious synth shredders, and you will definitely hear that on this record.  The liner notes list electric violin & vocals as well.

Hit play and the tape’s hiss is interrupted by a set of notes, foreshadowing the oncoming progression – a river of notes.  Gently filtered notes resting by the morning dew, soon to become weightless, their anti-gravity properties reaching for the stars.  Just below the steamy morning fields, an emotionally dense melody adds a certain compositional structure that only nature seems capable of, steadily transforming into the soaring feeling of a championship runner within 100 vortices.  It’s speedy synth playing, notey lines, and beautiful droning textures of violin that slowly shift and meld together in super-tight fashion.  Totally locked in… totally tight.  The other side seems to continue where the first side left off, but it’s a slower, more malleable trip, carried by twisting, morphing analog filters and passionate tears.  These dudes have emotions and are not afraid to share them with the world. About midpoint this odd line rises from the depths, emitting crackling, chaffing tones.  At this point it begins to slip into a spacier vibe similar to the sounds of Outerspace (a John Elliot solo project).  From field to space, the 20 minute journey is an expansive ride.

The image on the tape was totally fitting; the cover is a beautiful image of a grassy field meeting a shadowed timberline.  And the inside is an intense contrast, a hand-painted pattern of yellow orange and green wavy lines.  A perfect compliment to the sounds on tape.

Sam Goldberg: http://samuelgoldberg.blogspot.com/ | John Elliot (of the Emeralds): http://emeraldsohio.com/

Oneohtrix Point Never & Seagulls

Oneohtrix "Ruined Lives"

Onetrix Point Never, Ruined Lives, C20, Young Tapes

Imagine standing on the peak of a mountain during a storm; the massive geological structure splices the oncoming clouds in two.  Then the sun rises, burns off the fog, and the earth begins emitting steam.  Dense, mineral-rich soil feeds the surrounding trees the nutrients to sustain life on this planet.  And, simultaneously, you hear the sound of a seagull’s thoughts as she plans how to voice her next cry.

Oneohtrix Point Never is the work of Daniel Lopatin.    I think he is from Boston, currently living in Brooklyn – but I’ve gathered this from the internet – I could be wrong.  This tape is out on the ever-so-shreddy new new age label, Young Tapes, yet another fine addition to their catalog.  Daniel Lopatin is also a part of a few other projects including Infinity Window and Astronaut.

The arrangements on this tape are totally smooth.  Three tracks of finely-crafted fluid motions that seem to seep into each other make up the first side.  The first track is ambient, layered goodness, laying the groundwork for what is to follow.  This semi-meditative state is broken by speedy tribal drumming repetitions.  Enter the sounds of 80’s electronics instruments.  This sounds like a Roland Juno 106 and early 12-bit sampling keyboards.  It is a fresh perspective on what can be done with old technology, but more importantly, it adds an icy warmth of sorts, a digital sheen drifting in the breeze.   The third track is my favorite.  This could be a nod to Giorgio Moroder’s theme from Midnight Express, but there’s a certain depth to it that really reaches into your gut, pulls out your innards and launches them into the heavens (innovation is necessary).  Hell yes – this is good shit.  The second side is one track that lasts around 10 minutes; beautifully sculpted waves of sound flow in the wind and hover above the sea.  Delayed arpeggios rise and fall; sifting, sailing, swirling into a vortex from which to view the transformation of the earth’s atmosphere over the past millennium.

Another excellent tape.  Sold out at the source, but don’t let that discourage you.  This is an excellent example of what can be done with vintage synths and sequencers and it makes me very happy to hear this music, knowing it was made now.

Links: http://www.pointnever.com/ & http://myspace.com/pointnever

Dolphins into the Future – Voyage Series pt2

Dolphins - Voyage Series pt2

Dolphins into the Future – Voyage Series pt2 – Taped Sounds

I gotta say… Dolphins into the Future totally kick my ass.  This project is the main focus of Belgium-based musician/tape manipulator, Lieven Martens (If you check the credits… I have to think that Alex Murphy is just another way to confuse identity?).  The dude takes this game to a new level.  He steps it up, mixing tape loops and sounds to create a bizarre glowing atmosphere, one that seems to provide a pathway for it’s listeners to communicate with our animal ancestors.  It’s good weed for those of us that would like to abscond from the earth-bound existence.

Lieven runs a label, or maybe a set of labels (?), that seem to come together under the name Taped Sounds (see bread and animals / cauliflower / taped sounds and I’ve seen Dreamtime Taped Sounds  too).  There is tons of good stuff on this label, with lots more to come.  In addition to releasing all of the interesting current stuff out there, he also re-released a classic LP from JD Emmanuel: Wizards.  I heard that this sold out in 10 days.

There have been a few reviews out in cyberspace-land that seem to mention this guy’s got some sort of super power with regards to altering tape loops in the live show setting.  After seeing this video, I have to say I can’t disagree.  Check it out here (sorry… I hesitate to embed too many You Tubes).  Uhhhh… did i say see?

This tape is weirdo gamelan music from the depths of the ocean.  It’s a mix of “tapes, special effects, synthesizer, sampling keyboard, organ, percussion, kalimba” (that is taken from a strip of folded paper insert stuffed inside the case).    There’s one long track on it that will completely confuse you.  It’s a repetitive track that has this odd vocal sound that comes in and out; it could be a dolphin, it could be someone moaning in their sleep.  After this track you enter into this clinking/clanking  metal sound, as if pieces of cymbals are being tossed around on the kitchen floor by toddlers.  Buried underneath, but rising, a near unintelligible drum circle seems to ensue.  Cut in some more dolphin sounds, this time distant and gurgling beneath the surface.  And then it goes to this dreamy synth track, a magical journey to an uncharted island, ending in a rain forest next to a stream.  This is just one of the sides.  I won’t spoil the whole thing as this is well worth finding an original copy.

So here’s his myspace: http://www.myspace.com/pulsatingspacegum and his contact info:  DREAMS.THE.SHIP @ GMAIL . COM

I know you want to hear this stuff so head to this page and download some Dolphins: http://nonotfunnotno.blogspot.com/2008/11/dolphins-into-future-untitled-cs.html (then go buy some if you can get your hands on a copy).

And as for his label… I noticed a couple weeks back that the Taped Sounds site seemed to go away… I believe this is the replacement: http://cetaceannationcommunications.blogspot.com/

The Stairwell is Long Gone

Steve Hauschildt, The Stairwell is Long Gone, Deception Island, Cass

Steve Hauschildt, The Stairwell is Long Gone, Deception Island, Cass (di19)

Listening to this tape reminds me of the slow days fishing with my pops as a kid… staring intently at the red and white float at the end of the fishing line as it bobs up and down on the surface of the calm forest lake.  If you were to imagine you as the bobber, half-submerged, not knowing what lies beneath you… you’re getting closer to what listening to this feels like.

This cassette is layers of thick melodies, constructed with analog synthesizers and probably some sort of looper pedal.  Steve Hauschildt has a knack for the thick sounds.  If you’ve heard any of the Emeralds stuff, you already know this and I’m preaching to the choir.  In fact, all three members of the group have released excellent solo and side project releases.  I’ve heard Mark McGuire’s solo guitar works and John Elliot’s projects: Lilypad, Hot Air Balloon Ride and Outer Space.  All of it I highly recommend.

Steve Hauschildt’s stuff tends to be fairly minimal, mostly drone-based (but not boring), it’s a bit on the heavy side, and it ususally emits positive vibes.  This release is no exception.  It’s ambient energy field music that unlocks the expansive landscapes of the mind.  Excellent stuff.  This was available from  deception-island.com (now it’s sold out).

Treetops tape ‘Deep Purple Infinity’

Treetops - Deep Purple Infinity, Taped Sounds, Cass

Just a quick note… the Taped Sounds link now seems to be broken… so I’ve linked to tomentosa’s section.

Treetops, Deep Purple Infinity, Taped Sounds, Cass

Mike Pollard is Treetops.  It’s more than appropriate to give this dude some props.  Just check out Arbor.  This is inspiration.  Originally from Western Springs, IL, this new age experimentalist synth drone wizard started this totally kick-ass label.  I think he is now based in New York.

This tape is drifting layered synth melodies… floating goodness… blowing in the wind… you as the sound of the leaves swaying with every gentle gust.  Flip the tape and at first glance its seems like a static drone.  But the volume fluctuates, textures emerge amidst the swells and a steady rattling ensues.  An unwilling customer might think that there is something wrong with the heater.  Subliminal lifting motions begin to color the seemingly static image.  Things are coming to an apex, but one that we will never reach in life.  And as the drone begins its decent, we find ourselves in a cave, in the company of a furry creature hiding in the dark, its low growl, a set of controlled jolts of forward motion, like the manual winding of a reel; tape upon a tape head.  All of this under an ethereal sea of blue-green light.  I recommend laying next to a candle when you listen to this one.

One last note… the noise level on this tape is substantial.  I am almost positive that this is a Type I tape (complete with single notches to prove it)… but rest assured, this is not a complaint.  I think there are certain works that aren’t negatively affected by a ton of tape hiss.  This instance of a more ambient, drone-based work isn’t negatively affected.  A high standard of sound quality should not necessarily be a priority.  It should be noted that there are tons of Type I tapes out there and they cost less.