Here is an exercise: Sometime after dark, find a quiet place and take some minutes to empty the mind and allow the noise of your thoughts to dissipate. Finally, when the mind is quiet, when the short term memory has been flushed and the inputs cleansed, the body becomes ready to listen. This is the appropriate state from which to explore the creative work of another. And it’s a fitting moment to delve into the strange but warm cocoon that DARKSIDE weaves in the darkness.
You find yourself submersed in an abstract soundscape of downtempo, minimal house. All that exists is a nocturnal rhythm that takes you somewhere deep, a place at once familiar and curiously alien. It’s rather like imagining yourself in the womb, where perceptive faculties are erased and consciousness of self is a nebulous idea. Yet there is a heartbeat that is pumping somewhere which echoes your own, and the rhythm is lulling. In this space, other sounds enter mysteriously, as if through a veil. Their frequencies are isolated and vivid, bringing bursts of color into the nothingness through rough-edged bits of static and disrupted signal. They grasp gently at the edges of your consciousness, a suggestion of an idea without precise edges. A fragment of a violin, a soft organ blare, a twang of blues guitar, strangely pitched voices representing a mere echo of humanity, making almost-words, communicating almost-feelings.
DARKSIDE is a collaboration between guitarist Dave Harrington and electronic producer Nicolas Jaar. While Jaar plunges you deep into a weird, hushed environment of carefully-honed abstract sounds, Harrington’s strings bring in the human element and a primal sense of groove and rhythm. Together they create a captivating kind of minimal house with progressive builds that is strange yet warm; an unlikely duality that climbs and falls in a hypnotic, head-nodding fashion.
DARKSIDE is deep, enigmatic, benign, exploratory. Let it caress the ears and awaken the senses.
This short, 26-minute album by the now well-known Gregory Alan Isakov contains seven great little country songs. It’s got well written, down-to-earth lyrics, a feeling of countryside simplicity and a dose of autumn melancholy. It’s perfect for sitting around the campfire, thinking, reflecting and remembering.
I’ve chosen this album out of Isakov’s discography to review because it’s the first one I sat down and listened to, and even if there’s plenty of subsequent songs worth hearing (I highly recommend ‘The Stable Song’), I feel this early release is a perfect introduction to his music.
Isakov writes good, honest songs with acoustic guitar and voice. On certain songs he’s chosen to add a subtle, tasteful accompaniment in the form of violin, drums, a shaker, or a slight effect on his voice. I think of his music not so much as indie or folk – terms that I veer away from since they’ve been widely overused and diluted by now – but as modern country music. I lean toward this definition because Isakov is a musician from my generation who seems to have roots in the truely soulful music from America’s past like old time blues and country.
It’s worth noting that the words on this album are exceptionally well-written, infused with the musing and mystery of a poet. He writes tales about travelling, life on the road and searching for lost love, among other things. These wistful, sometimes sorrow-laden concepts always remain grounded with textures and imagery of everyday things, the mundane objects like “the rubber floor mat in your car” or the “rusty truck” that might serve as reminders of the people we’ve known and the eras we’ve lived. The feeling is always clearly felt in his verses, even when the meanings are a little more obscure (as in the mysterious ‘Crooked Muse’).
The music man sings his mystery songs He tries to put his finger on There’s things unfelt that he’s always longed to feel
The things we all are destined to loose While I seek out that crooked muse You stole my heart and filled it up with blues
Though Songs for October was only Isakov’s second record, it’s clear that even back then, he was no newcomer to his craft. And indeed, before focusing on his solo work, it seems he had already toured with a band as early as age 16. Yet despite his practiced hand and voice, the songs on this early release are understated in their presentation, just like the cover and the title written across it in a handwritten font, and this is what actually makes this album so appealing. This little, curated collection of well-worked songs is well worth an evening listen.
Highlight songs: Freeway Searching, Black & Blue, Crooked Muse.
Mord’a’Stigmata‘s fifth studio album Dreams of Quiet Places grabbed my attention when its elegantly designed, esoteric cover and intriguing title showed up on my Instagram feed, accompanied by the compelling description offered by @calligraphed.sins:
“Polish infused black metal…a thoroughingly modern and forward thinking album of blackened musical landscapes…depth and subtance…dissonance and melody.”
As it played through in my headphones for the first time, I was intrigued. The intro on the first track, Between Walls of Glass, builds a gentle, enigmatic atmosphere in a calm space. Then, craftfully, the drums and the guitars enter to add consecutive layers until at a certain point, the song launches into full gear with powerful force. Across the album, this band excels at clever builds and a controlled release of a strong, momentous energy that sustains. Your attention never has a chance to stray from beginning to end of this 44-minute release.
If No Drum No Moog is lacking anything, it’s neither drums nor synthesizers. They bring both in equal measure to their unique brand of synthwave space rock, and not digital ones, either – real, acoustic drums and real, analog synths. In an elegant fusion of these principal elements they’ve crafted a great instrumental soundtrack to either your next highspeed interstellar chase or your more laidback suborbital flight.
Battle Lines is the 2nd studio album from the electronic dance music duo, Bob Moses. At once captivating and relaxed, their brand of vocal-driven house music moves me with the genuine feeling behind it. Their synergy as musicians blossoms on this album.
The duo is composed of singer Tom Howie and producer Jimmy Vallance, two Vancouver-born guys who knew each other in school and started with similar tastes in music but never worked together until they crossed paths years later in a Lowe’s parking lot in NY. This was after Howie had studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year and Vallance had already made something of a professional name for himself in trance and progressive house music. Not long after their reacquaintance, they moved in together and began making music as a duo. (Wikipedia)