Friday, 18 April 2014

Spring in the Brecon Beacons



Here's a recording I made on March 7th whilst walking in the Brecon Beacons. I did a circular walk up from the Taf Fechan Forest, then up the left hand side of the reservoir along Graig Fan Ddu, and over Corn Du, Pen Y Fan and Cribyn. Finally dropping down into the valley to join the far end of the reservoir.

 The Upper Neuadd Reservoir

 Corn Du and Pen Y Fan


Down in the valley near the Upper Neuadd Reservoir the whole area was alive with spring activity. There were many Toads mating in drainage ditches and small pools. I heard the odd croaking as I was walking along, but every time I stopped and attempted to get nearer I frightened them away. However I later discovered they had also managed to reach the mountain pass between Pen Y Fan and Cribyn.

Spawn at the roadside

I managed to slide the microphone close to the edge of the pool and cabled back in order to not frighten them. Sadly I didn't have my hydrophone with me, but I love how the Toads sound like much larger animals in this recording and the effect off the wind rushing across the mountain tops.

The small pool between Pen Y Fan and Cribyn





Monday, 17 February 2014

Norway, Summer 2013



Towards the end of last summer I visited my friend in Norway. We went for quite a few walks in different places and I usually had at least my handheld recorder with me. The recordings which I worked with here are mainly from our walk up Kjerag to the popular tourist spot where a boulder is stuck above a massive drop.


I don't usually feel like including elements such as footsteps, breathing and so on in my recordings however for this little project I wanted to guide the listener through the landscape.


 Myself, Alex and his dog (called Skye) move across the mountain terrain and ecounter a herd of sheep moving down the valley. I wanted to jump back to Hundvag for the final section, the rising sound of the river becomes almost uncomfortable until suddenly it breaks. The setting is now a quiet woodland bridge with a stream running below, whilst engines of tankers in the port of Stavanger hum in the distance.
 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Contact Microphone

Last summer I got myself a contact microphone from JRF. It's a great bit of kit that I can slot in lots of different places to hear lovely subtle sounds.

This first recording was captured in a woodland near my parents home. I was on a walk and noticed a rotting tree stump with an ant colony working busily away inside. I went home and got my recording equipment and found to my surprise just how noisy these small creatures are!




On another wander I came across a wire fence which created lovely sounds in the wind one afternoon.






Wytham Woods is owned by Oxford University and is used primarily for research purposes. It's very large and well maintained, what's unusual however is that it's not open to the public. However I managed to obtain a permit for walking there. It's an ideal area of woodland for uninterrupted recording sessions. 

One grey afternoon at the end of a long walk within the woods it began to rain and I placed my contact microphone on a fence. The resulting sounds of the rain hitting the fence have a particularly musical quality. I recall as I stood listening for the best part of an hour, that I forgot I wasn't listening to a composition of some description.  






Personally it reminds me a bit of this Aphex Twin track... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8AuxX0B_94

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

My Best of 2013

The year is nearly over and I decided it was time to reflect on my favourite musical moments.

So here is my selection in the order that they came to mind...

Moderat
II



The second album from the Apparat and Modeselktor collaboration and it's rather nice. I was initially put off by the first single Bad Kingdom, but the vocals from Sasha Ring grew on me.

Anyway the third track entitled Versions is my favourite. It's a nice slow builder. I can't find it on youtube but someone's uploaded it to vimeo with clips from the film Bowie's son made, Moon. So watch that as well or don't maybe...




Heterotic
Love and Devotion



This album is the work of Mike Paradinas (μ-ziq) and his partner Lara Rix-Martin. Also the bloke from Gravenhurst does vocals. The first two tracks are my favourites.




They also did a lovely cover of Aphex Twin's Xtal....



Ochre
National Ignition




I discovered Ochre quite a few years ago somehow and love his glitchy lush sounds. I discovered his bandcamp early this year and was pleased to find a new release. 

Chris Leary is at the top of his game on this album, it's full snappy beats and swirling ambience. My favourite track is definitely Leaving Arcadia. It builds very nicely before dropping down into a vocal sample.


Bonobo
North Borders




 This album dropped in March and is very good stuff. My top track would have to be Know You.



 Lone
Airglow Fires



Lone is defnitely one of my top artists. Last years album Galaxy Garden has a lot of play counts on my iTunes, with the track As A Child being the stand out moment for me.

Airglow fires is an ep released earlier this year on R&S and is up to the usual standards.



Gold Panda
Half Of Where You Live



A fantastic release from Gold Panda this year. The stand out track for me is We Work Nights. Checkity check...






µ-Ziq
 Chewed Corners




Mike Paradinas has been busy this year, kicking off with Somerset Avenue Tracks which is a 2 CD jobby of old unreleased material. I honestly haven't listened to it very extensively, probably because it requires total attention and isn't the sort of thing you can have playing in the background whilst you re-type your CV. I was excited for this album as it's been a few years since Duntisbourne Abbots Soulmate Devastation Technique which I believe is a break up album of sorts as the name suggests. It's an album of woozey melancholia that I don't rate too highly. Chewed Corners on the other hand sees Paradinas getting back to his roots and revising his unique sound. It's quality all the the way through but my favourite moment must be the last track which is a bit of a banger...



Milieu
Academy Stripes


Milieu is the handy work of Brian Grainger, who makes music under various aliases that range widely in style. He is also very prolific in his output. I've been into his music for quite a few years now and pick up one or two of his releases when I've got the spare cash. This year Grainger announced that he was bringing out a new Milieu album after being silent under that name for quite a while. It was early summer by the time my copy arrived from the US and served as a brilliant soundtrack for the sunshine. It's full of analog goodness from start to finish but my favourite tracks are Carpet Acid and Set Phasers To Debonair. The whole album can be streamed over at the bandcamp page.




David Lynch
The Big Dream



Lynch brought out Crazy Clown Time in 2011 which is very good despite being a rubbish title for an album. Lynch creates some fantastic weirdness here, it's not his first musical efforts as he worked closely making music for his films from the very beginning on Eraserhead. The soundtrack from which saw a lovely re-release on vinyl in 2012, also this dance mix needs to be heard. This year saw the release of The Big Dream, these tracks are more ballad like than the content of Crazy Clown Time, but the Lynch sound is still there with his whiney lyrics. You can listen to the whole thing on YouTube...


David Bowie
The Next Day

  
 I honestly thought the album cover was a bad joke when I first saw it, but then someone told me it was real... also I don't know why the most boring song on the album, Where Are We Now, was the first single. So I wasn't too hopeful about this album being anything but utter shite, but as it turns out I rather like it! The sound is somewhat reminiscent of the Scary Monsters and Super Creeps album, which is brilliant. Although Bowie is never going to be as good as he was this is still worth a listen. Dirty Boys is probably my favourite track, I also like this remix that came out the other month in time for the inevitable 3 disc deluxe edition...

  


A Strangely Isolated Place
Uncharted Places


A Strangely Isolated Place is kind of a blog website featuring music of ambient goodness. The name of the site derives from Ulrich Schnauss' second album. The Place Series is a great on going part of the site in which artists from around the world submit a few tracks inspired by a specific place. I have been introduced to a lot of great music through this series, my favourite would have to be Yeter which is sublime. If I knew how/had the patience to make music this is what I would want it to sound like. This summer ASIP put out a compilation album of remixed tracks from The Place Series. The result can be streamed in full on bandcamp. I love the last track, . I remember sitting at my laptop one hot summer evening trying to stay cool when I first heard it. Fantastic bassline and sampling work.


ENH
Body Of Blue



ENH was a discovery I made via ASIP this summer. I remember very vividly walking to work in Oxford on a beautiful warm morning listening to the first track and getting shivers down my spine. It's a very nice opener, a perfect mix of field recordings and subtle ascending synths. The whole album can be streamed on his bandcamp, there you can also find the release he brought out in August entitled Five Men Stand Under which is also great.


Richard Skelton
Succession



Richard Skelton first came to my attention a few years ago when Landings was receiving a lot of attention. His music has deep ties with the landscape of Northern England where he lives and works. You can really feel the isolation and bleakness in his music from the densely layered roughness of the various stringed instruments and field recordings. Early special editions from Skelton were lovingly hand made, and even included items from the landscape itself such as soil or pine cones. For this latest release Skelton and his partner Autumn Richardson have returned to south-western Cumbria to provide inspiration for Succession as a follow up to Wolf Notes. The result is an somewhat more soft and subtle than previous releases, but nonetheless hauntingly beautiful. It is available digitally on bandcamp along with Echoless, which features unabridged compositions from Succession. 



Pantha Du Prince and The Bell Laboratory
Elements Of Light




What do you get when you mix electronic music and bells? Amazing music. Pantha Du Prince is a great producer who for this latest venture teamed up with the Norwegian Bell Laboratory group. It's only a five track album, but Spectral Split is a seventeen minute voyage through layers of bells that drop into catchy beats. The YouTube video below makes it look like they're a great live act as well, I'm sorry I missed them in London. Hey ho.

  


Media Them
Logical Love



 I don't know too much about who is behind Media Them. It's a release that appeared this summer on Brian Grainger's Recycled Plastics record label. It is a album comprised of some of the catchiest, warm and dusty loops I've ever heard. The highlight for me is the track entitled A Good Idea. Stream the whole thing and check out lots of other good stuff here: http://recycledplastics.bandcamp.com/album/logical-love


Tim Hecker
Virgins


 After the fantastic Ravedeath, 1972 and the subsequent Dropped Pianos I had high hopes for this album. I have listened to it all the way through maybe two or three times and seem to get lost in it about halfway through, it's a very absorbing and hypnotic experience. I also love the album cover and plan to pick up a copy on vinyl at some point. You can stream the whole thing here...




Boards of Canada
Tomorrow's Harvest



I couldn't do a round up of this years music without including the massively anticipated new BOC album. It's a strange album for me. Having listened to it several times I feel that the album conveys a general feeling of pessimism. The album cover looks like the shadow of a lost city, perhaps destroyed by its inhabitants own carelessness and greed. The track titles point to loss and desolation, for example, Cold Eath, Reach For The Dead, Sick Times, Collapse and Nothing is Real. The album isn't necessarily depressing as a result, but there are dark undertones. As Sandison explains in an interview with The Guardian, "In a way we're really celebrating an idea of collapse rather than resisting it. It's probably quite a bleak album, depending on your perspective." Despite these bleak emotions that I'm not used to associating with BOC, it's up to their usual standard and in time I hope it will age like a fine wine. My favourite track has a lovely feeling of endlessness...




Rafael Anton Irisarri
The Unintentional Sea


Irisarri is one of my favourite artists. His entire body of work is fantastic, he is also behind The Sight Below and Orcas alongside Benoît Pioulard. This release is full of crackly atmospheres and dark and beautiful drones...




Lawrence English
Lonely Woman's Club


 If I didn't live in a smallish flat then I would definitely buy an organ. On this release Lawrence English creates two lovely drone pieces on an Elka 30 organ. The material was recorded over the month of July in 2011 whilst nursing his newly arrived daughter between the hours of 11pm and 4am. It's definitely late night listening. Preview here.


Nils Frahm
Spaces


I came across Nils Frahm through his collaborations with Olafur Arnalds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2wCh3RKd40). This album is a collection of live recordings in different spaces as the title suggests. He creates rich layers of piano and synth that are simply fantastic.  




Lusine
The Waiting Room


I nearly forgot this one as it was released back in February. It's top notch Lusine sounds with a number of vocal tracks that work wonderfully.





Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Westhay Moor Drainage Ditch

This is a recording made last summer on August 28th that I found whilst clearing some old memory cards.



Westhay Moor is an area of peat wetlands south of the Mendips which I drove to one afternoon because it looked interesting on my map. I stopped on one of the long straight roads at a small bridge and lowered both hydrophones into the water.



The water was full of plant life and fairly stagnant. When the sun came out from behind the clouds at the 2 minute mark, the tempo increases which leads me to believe it is mostly gases being released from decaying vegetation that can be heard. 



Saturday, 22 June 2013

Summer update...

Yes, the summer solstice was yesterday. I spent the day walking on Blakeney Point on the Norfolk coastline. I took a few photos that I might upload here at some point. It is a fantastic area, very quiet and remote. I plan on returning there with a microphone.

So the field recording has hit a bit of a standstill in recent times. My life has been a bit up in the air as I've moved back home from Bristol, and other things have been occuring that have kept me away from having much creative time and headspace. I think part of the problem is that I'm not fond of editing and looking at computer screens for long periods of time. So when I do occasionally go out and record things I rarely get round to uploading them.

However one of the things I've felt continually frustrated with is the lack of a proper professional microphone. I've worked with my Zoom H2, Fostex FR-2LE, and a pair of handmade omni-directional 'Brady Mics', as I named them after the man who kindly made and sold a pair to me. The setup I was primarily using was the Fostex and Brady mics, but I feel i've reached the limits of this now. So I have my eye on a Audio-Technica BP4025, which I believe is the sort of microphone I'm looking for. It has low self noise, produces a fantastic stereo image and looks sleek and compact. I had been considering the Rode NT4. But although I've used this mic before and was very impressed with it, I did find it a bit bulky and heavy. I have also read reviews comparing the two and the general consensus is that the BP4025 is much better.

I don't know when I'll be picking this microphone up. Probably next month after I've earned a bit of cash because it's not particularly cheap!

Anyway aside from all that I recently gave Traktor a go and made a mix of some random tracks I like. So here it is:



Enjoy.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Sounds from summer

I took a short midweek camping trip in the eastern area of the Brecon Beacons in summer during a spell of good weather.

I have only just got the photos developed from that trip which I wanted to pair with the recordings, it was a very beautiful area.