Reviews Archive

Thus:Owls – The Queen Of Fragile Hearts

Thus:Owls - Cardiac MalformationsFirst drama-loaded album from Swedish quintet Thus:Owls, Cardiac Malformations is a masterly directed, dark and poignant, sad yet heart-warming pop record.

The velvet curtain slowly unfolds. Still in a vast desertic plain stands the dark tent of a macabre circus. Swedish ringmistress Erika Alexandersson has convoked her gifted troupe, while the demons of Danny Elfman and Sufjan Stevens glide and twirl in the distance. The bluesy guitar of Erika’s sweetheart Simon Angell (from Patrick Watson’s excellent Wooden Arms) fades in winds and woods. Grief is heavily palpable, though we ignore whom or what is mourned. “I’m so very far from home”. Where’s home anyway? Montreal? Stockholm? Asgard? Dragging drum rolls, choral laments. Even when colors get brighter, the tone remains grave. Hearts burn with love.

Listen to “Climbing The Fjelds Of Norway“:

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Sometimes” hands clap, moods swing. Erika ushers, playfully squeaks, heartily screams. She’s a child again. “Sometimes I find myself shrunk half my size, screaming things I never meant to.” As she grows up again, she kindly proposes: “leave your head in my knee, leave your thoughts in my knee, and let your shoulders rest from the weight.” Isn’t she lovely? Sweet lullaby. Gling Gló?

Halfway through the experience, a strong, straightforward piece: “When She Arrived”. Who’s “she” anyway? Woman, child, seducing, caring, feeling, acting and telling stories, sneaking away just when you think you could catch her. While it’s more than easy to be charmed by the frontwoman’s great vocals, Thus:Owls really is all about the symbiosis of its 5 accomplished musicians. Erika’s choirs are just one of the fine ingredients at play, just as is the pulsing double bass of Martin Höper or the piano of Cecilia Persson. Backed by the low percussions of Ola Hultgren, the whole slowly build up to a brass momentum.

While electricity has been unleashed on “Let Your Blood Run”, tormented spirits are eventually eased by a gentle xylophone that nicely weaves an enthralling pattern with the bass drums and a bowed double bass. “A Volcano In My Chest” (Cardiac Malformation?)– Where the worlds of Sidsel Endresen, Björk and Heliogabale collide. Beware of the ashes! Thus:Owls obviously have a stunning ability to swing from sweet jazz ballads to pinches of harsh noise to cabaret in no time. And to elevate themselves again into pathos-loaded fields again. “Once you left this land, you arose to the gods.” Final scene – The wind loudly whispers, caresses the waves and vanishes in “The Atlantic”. The curtain slowly falls, exorcised demons have gone back to Muspelheim, you can lay your head back on my knees and rest in peace.

Buy Cardiac Malformations from Almost Music (Digital) or from your usual record store.

Woman On Fire: “The Calcination Of Scout Niblett”

After almost ten years of career and four full-length albums, British-born singer-songwriter Emma Louise Niblett paired up with Steve Albini once again to record some of her darkest and most straightforward tracks, thus radically parting with the folk tag that caracterized her early works.

The Calcination Of Scout NiblettWith Scout Niblett’s newest album, pressing play feels much like stumbling upon PJ Harvey’s Rid Of Me and 4-Tracks Demos some 16 years ago. “Just Do It” slithers in like a slow and heavy wave of raw energy. Unrefined arrangements, unpolished voice, and heavily saturated guitar. No drums, like on most of the album, but hell this is rock’n'roll. The title track continues in the same direction. Greasy and rusty, bowels and lead, dust and saliva, this is the lady’s “self-made sweat box / This is where (she) takes it all off”. “Cherry Cheek Bomb”’s Hallelujah will make your hair stand on your head before providing the opus’ most advanced drum part. Grunge roots obviously, but a distinctive attitude, a grain that cannot be heard or felt anywhere else.

Listen to “The Calcination Of Scout Niblett”

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From “Kings”‘ throbbing rhythm to “Lucy Lucifer”’s mind-numbing linearity, from the disenchanted lyrics of “Ripe With Life”, to the deafening immensity of “Strip Pluto”, each track will cut you a little more from your civilized self and lay another layer of plastic wrap between your fishy eyes and the rest of the world. With its lo-blues feel and roaring guitar riffs, finale “Meet and Greet” is as heady and intoxicating as a dark nightly road movie. Think Lost Highway. Uncertain, deconstructed, and oppressive. “When you gonna learn to play that thing?” The answer is a shapeless guitar solo that ranges from soft indigo vibratos to flashes of purple sustained chaos. And then silence.

Introspective without being hermetic, direct without being exhibitionist, The Calcination Of Scout Niblett is as obsessive and addictive as it is disarmingly unelaborated. Nothing is forced out and nothing is changed, even though her previous releases may have sounded lighter, if not naiver. Howling and strumming with the heated and apathetic sweet-fuck-it-allness and looks of a rebel teen, Niblett simply delivers her strongest album so far.

Buy The Calcination Of Scout Niblett from Drag City.

Scout around for Scout on tour through Europe:

May 9, 2010 in Brussels (Botanique)
May 10, 2010 in Amsterdam (Bitterzote)
May 11, 2010 in Schorndorf (Manufaktur)
May 12, 2010 in Gent (Vooruit)
May 14, 2010 in Frankfurt (Yellowstage)
May 15, 2010 in Bremen (Spedition)
May 16, 2010 in Aachen (AZ)
May 17, 2010 in Cologne (Subway)
May 19, 2010 in Oslo (Cafe Mono)
May 20, 2010 in Stockholm (Hornstrull Strand)
May 21, 2010 in Malmo (Debaser)
May 22, 2010 in Berlin (Hebbel Am Ufer)
May 23, 2010 in Munich (59t01)
May 24, 2010 in Vienna (Arena)
May 26, 2010 in Lucerne (Suedpol)
May 28, 2010 in Barcelona (Primavera Sound Festival)
May 29, 2010 in Averio (Teatro Aveirense)
May 31, 2010 in London (Borderline)
Jun 1, 2010 in Glasgow (Stereo)
Jun 2, 2010 in Manchester (Ruby Lounge)
Jun 3, 2010 in Nottingham (Spanky Van Dykes)
Jun 4, 2010 in Bristol (The Fleece)
Jun 5, 2010 in Brighton (The Freebutt)
Jun 7, 2010 in Paris (Point Ephémère)
Jun 8, 2010 in Dijon (La Nef, cour intérieure)

Dec 3, 2010 at the ATP Nightmare Before Christmas curated by GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR (feat. Neurosis, the Ex, Tim Hecker, Marissa Nadler…)

Picastro’s Well Kept Secrets

With the release of Become Secret on Canadian label Polyvinyl (Monotreme in Europe), Toronto-originated band Picastro deliver their fourth album of avant-folk. Drawing inspiration from Cormac McCarthy The Road, they manage to turn the throbbing, obsessive cry of memory into a strikingly lively gallery of unravelled secrets.

picastro-become-secret-300pxA few notes on an ill-tuned piano, distant and bleak like a ghost, leads you into Picastro’s secrecy. “Twilight Parting”, a phrase repeated over and over still conveys an impression of instability: a chain whose link are constantly about to break. Liz Hysen’s voice may at first sound blank, atonal, colorless. Yet, with tracks like “Split Heads”, it soon declines every possible shades of whites, with glints of icy blues, faded yellows, and opalescent flesh, reminding at times of early Chan Marshall or Lisa Germano. A vivid humanity immersed in a world of decaying memories. The voice maintains a dialogue of Glissandos and approximate tones with Nick Storring’s cello, often reaching the frontier of sinister. Dusty strings and keyboards circle into a macabre waltz with “A Dune A Doom”.

The specter of Eastern European folk music is a relevant influence in the light of their discography. On the other hand, drawing inspiration from Cormac McCarthy’s bestseller The Road may seem an opportunist choice for an indie band. But with little technique, a taste for minimalist arrangements and arpeggios played on a loop, Picastro illustrate their gift for creating intricate atmospheres. They translate the despairing, almost stifling feeling of loneliness of the novel, accurately – though not literally – depicting the overwhelming mist of smoke and ash that cover, isolate, and humiliate all.

Centered around singer and multi-instrumentalist Hysen, the Toronto band was founded 13 years ago and started recording in 2002. Although they have encountered definite critical success, collaborated with various artists, including Owen Pallett, and toured alongside Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Cat Power, or Elliott Smith since then, their fourth album still finds them almost unknown, even to the indie-aficionados.

Listen to “Twilight Parting”

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Indeed it is not the most welcoming music. It verges on gothic folk with tracks like “I Know My Time”, while Storring’s untidy bows come out with palpable textures: rosin powder floating in the half-light and wood, lots of wood. Oil varnished wood, creaking wood floor and doors, patinated banister. A whole house – not so distant neighbor to Black Forest/Black Sea’s or Elfin Saddle’s – made out of the woods of cellos, violins, guitars and piano, assembled with the rusty strings and metal parts of a scarce electric guitar. A labyrinth clutter. A story is told in every room: that of a haunting past, that of renunciation with the lo-fi incantations of “Suttee”, stories of witchcraft with the vocal chaos of “A Neck In The Desert”. Cello and binary guitar pattern back up Liz’s voice on “The Stiff”. According to Hysen, this last track synchs up seamlessly with the final scene of Antonioni’s The Passenger. Let us know if you try, but regardless of the anecdote, there is in “The Stiff” a sense of timelessness, of fulfillment and soothing melancholy that clearly surpasses its stark instrumentation, and that is enough to make you press play again as soon as the 29 minutes – only?! – LP is over.

Behind the mist of smoke and ashes, each song in Become Secret brings their ghosts back to the flesh, and the forlorn rooms eventually perspire with intimacy. A vivid humanity that makes every painful note worth lending an ear.

Buy become secret on Bommkat

The Story Of Nest Shall be Told On A Loop

Nest - Retold (Serein)With Retold, British-Norwegian duo Huw Roberts and Otto Totland become experts in monochrome impressionism and gift 2010 and the Serein label with a solid debut.

Minimalism is the first word to come. From the faded bluish seashore cover picture of the white digipack to the singsong piano lines of introduction title “Lodge”, layered with digital pads and sampled breath, the impression is almost that of coldness and sadness. “Four notes into Kyoto”, and the richness in arrangements and crystal clear mixes bloom in all directions through the stark instrumentation. Plucked strings, a few electro treats, and field recordings shape out an intricate three-dimensional web. Or rather a lace, infinitely delicate and fragile. Piano again on “Marefjellet”, bass notes pounding like a clock, waves of white noise washing in and out. There is know-how in evoking a fully structured yet entirely fantastic soundscape. “Charlotte” fuzzy intro sets the bed for a haunting melody. A couple of notes only, skilfully enveloped, surrounded, underlied, take on the breathtaking radiance of a cloudless midsummer day.

Listen to Charlotte”

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It is not accidental if one is reminded of the sound of Miasmah Records here. Otto Totland and Huw Roberts both earned their stripes working there. Totland even partnered with present head of the imprint, Erik Skodvin, as duo Deaf Center (Type records). Roberts, on the other hand, is also founder of Serein records. Formerly devoted to free dowloads, Serein was rebuilt and revamped in 2009, turning to commercial CD releases, primarily to distribute Nest. A risky choice maybe. But a blessing for our ears and CD collections.

The duo’s unquestionable expertise in neo classical and dark ambient becomes more obvious with the fifth track. “Gad Goddeu” offers a more conventional atmosphere for the genre, but also introduces a broader, deeper sound. With a strictly specialised palette ranging from sound effects similar to Elegi’s Tommy Jansen on “Trans Siberian”, to the almost romantic, Max-Richter like piano phrase on “The Helwick”, the inherent variety never jeopardises the whole’s integrity and consistency. There is beauty, if not majesty, in “Far From Land” and “The Twelve”. Bowed strings, pads and sweeps build giant, monstrous, but quiet waves, only to be found in the high sea. Eroded mountains of water, rolling out to horizons, one after the other, endlessly, moving glints on the surface, fugitive shadows disappearing into the vertiginous depth.

Listen to “The Twelve”

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Eventually, the drones of “Amroth” will bring the listener back to the shore, slightly dazed, as if awakening from hypnosis. Indeed, very few records are able to depict such complex sceneries with that little colours. Every nuance in the spectrum is suddenly conveying a unique significance and the world could be painted in all possible shades of blue with as much richness as if resorting to the full colour range, but with another perspective.

Far from discrediting the label, the fact that its founder is involved in this first gem is making us look forward to the next one, and to the unravelling of the Serein vision.

Buy Retold on CD or Digital release on Serein Records

Ben Frost Grabs You “By The Throat”

Ben Frost By The ThroatAn Australian-born producer and founding member of the Icelandic label Bedroom Community along with Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurðsson, Ben Frost releases his 4th full length, “By The Throat”.

The follower to 2007’s “Theory of Machines” features performances by musicians as diverse as Amiina, The Arcade Fire’s drummer Jeremy Gara, Swedish grindcore band Crowpath, and label mate and hip composer Nico Muhly, losely disseminated through its 11 pieces. And the result is at least as surprising as those contributors themselves. With ambiences ranging from the abstract beats of Ryoji Ikeda to a gothic version of Murcof’s “Versailles Sessions”, the freezing soundscapes of Set Fire To Flames or a much richer, more cerebral turn on Fuck Buttons‘ noisy electronic drones, “By The Throat” synthetizes many seemingly incompatible genres in a dark modern chamber music, which stands on its own and is both challenging and emotionally powerful.

Ben Frost explores people’s deepest fears with this score to a heavily twisted mind. “By The Throat” is loaded with murderers (”Killshot”), wolves and vampires (”The Carpathians”), implores help of superior forces (”O God Protect Me”), but only receives intervention from Ghostbusters’ Peter Venkman (”Peter Venkman Pt. 1 & 2″, though the tracks themselves recel less humor than their title).

Choirs, concrete samples, bowed and scratched strings, piano, brass and hints of heavy guitars layer into this nightmarish soundtrack, as the danger comes closer, sneaking into your home (”Through The Glass Of The Roof”), into your own body (”Through The Roof Of Your Mouth”), perverting your view of the world (”Through The Mouth Of Your Eye”). As a matter of fact, you eventually cannot but surrender to Ben’s innovative music when it grabs you by the throat, surrounding you in an explosion of sound fractals, of which one can barely tell if they come from your own mind or from a frightening yet mesmerizing environment.

Bedroom Community’s WHALE WATCHING TOUR will feature the label’s complete band roster (Sam Amidon, Ben Frost, Nico Muhly, and Valgeir Sigurðsson); a great opportunity to catch those outstanding artists live if you’re close to one of the below European cities this November.

November 3, 2009: Centre Escorxador, Elche (Alicante), Spain, 9:30 PM, €5.
November 4, 2009: Museo MARCO de Vigo, Spain, 8:30 PM, €10.
November 5, 2009: Teatro Maria Matos, Lisbon, Portugal, 9:45 PM, €12.
November 6, 2009: La Casa Encendida, Madrid, Spain, 8 PM, €3.
November 8, 2009: AB, Brussels, Belgium, 4 PM, €12.
November 9, 2009: Effenaar, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, 7:30 PM, €15.
November 10, 2009: UT Connewitz, Leipzig, Germany, 8 PM.
November 11, 2009: Stadtgarten Concerthall, Köln, Germany, 8 PM, €12-15.
November 12, 2009: Huset i Magstraede, Copenhagen, Denmark, 8 PM.

Fugues’ Unreleased Tracks 2009: A Skillfully Orchestrated Escape

A new compilation of Unreleased Tracks from Paris-based collective Fugues is out this Fall: a narrow-escape for these thirteen tracks.

fugues - unreleased tracks 2009

The third of a series of compilations, and available only by mail order from French label debruit&desilence, Fugues’ Unreleased Tracks 2009 will not go unnoticed among the Parisian and foreigner circles of indie ambient and post-rock, not only thanks the remarkable set of newly confirmed and emerging artists involved in this and the previous issues, but also because of founder Jerome Olivier past and present implications in the independent music scene. Whether many of his past and present acquaintances will take the step from simple recognition to actual mail order is a different matter… Such a release is unfortunately very likely to be overlooked by most of the participating artists’ audience. Yet, as its title indicates, this humble and discrete CD-R contains something that might be very dear to fans: unreleased tracks.

Life Without Dreams sets the exposition with “White Light”. For those who have already taken a peep – or immersed themselves – into Fugues’ aesthetic, the vivid opening guitar arpeggio pattern surprises with its almost Caribbean feel. But then comes the counterpoints, and the Singaporeans glossy pads and scarce floating vocal seamlessly layer into a more atmospheric direction. Though the most accessible and conventional track of the records, it does eventually unravel with the enthusiast tension of a movie’s opening theme, with the promising and overwhelming vastness of an unknown landscape.

The journey begins, and The Toy Library’s “Once the Dust Settles” resounds with a still and contemplative sadness, while Simon Scott’s drone developments offer a moment of rare and almost palpable darkness. We are undoubtedly being taken where we were expecting: away. Rothko, Rafael Anton Irisarri, and Lightsway sweep by in a dreamily succession of textures, though the latter’s usual naïve accents do not convince as much as the two formers’ mastery.

Millimetrik’s “Méduse” may quite sound like a U.F.O amongst such a collection – if not a faux pas. Nonetheless, and surprisingly enough, this middle entry of electro beat does not disrupt but actually achieves a surprisingly convincing articulation to Message to Bears’ almost romantic episode. Silencio’s “Again, Again” brings us back to darker shores with the haunting rhythm of a ticking clock and soon fades out to give way to two tracks of delicate and poignant beauty.

Peter Broderick & Nils Frahm and Goldmund’s cinematic pianos and strings alter and invigorate the scenes with every note. Painful and serene, heartbreaking and soothing, they skilfully bring color and tangibility to the old roll of film.

But it is almost the end, and July Skies’ guitar responds to that of Life Without Dreams, with the same self-contained density. Closing theme. The screen turns black and Last Days’ “Light” 3-notes pattern echoes in you for while. Has it really been an hour?

From the first hearing it is obvious that Unreleased Track 2009 is more than just a compilation. And it does not seem to serve the purpose of showcasing a “vision”. It is the work of a true passionate, a hermit in the city of light. Carefully and patiently collected and put together with commendable coherence, these 13 rarities take on the glimmers of gems. Extracted from the mundane contingences of the musical scene, illustrated by the unsettling words of the man himself, and by the enigmatic picture of photographer Julie Calbert, these orphaned tracks find space to bloom and grow on their audience.

A lucky audience, with only a 100 copies… And if the minimalist home-made packaging lets you think this is all not so serious, playing it through will convince you that Fugues’ vault may be as precious as its content.

Visit Fugues’ Myspace

Order Unreleased Tracks 2009 from debruit&desilence

Lisa Germano’s Magic Neighbor Pays Us A Nightly Visit

With her ninth album released this Fall on Youg God Records, Lisa Germano shows an unwithering talent for welcoming her audience into the darkest recesses of her grounds. We do like to lose ourselves.


It is Fall already and we find ourselves gifted with a set of seasonal ballads, all resonating with the crispy clutter of dead leaves, and the insinuating melancholy of days getting shorter. A soft piano/violin intro – sort of instrumental reprise of In the Maybe World’s “Red Thread” – will guide you through the forlorn lanes. But the sun is going down now, and the Indiana singer/songwriter is scattering her scarce yet striking effects and textures through the soudscape again. Her voice, breathy, direct and unflourished, has started the confession.

Frustration, impossible love, self-loathing, addictions, broken dreams and unspoken hopes. As always with Germano, this may at first sound like the making of a self-tortured teenager. Yet this is the work of a 50 year old woman, who has now been recording and touring for 18 years. Affectively immature, maybe, a chaotic journey through the music industry, depression indeed, and known issues with alcohol. Such facts may be of little interest to her faithful but limited audience. But if you are new in the neighborhood, they can show you the way through this short album. It is night now and “The Prince of Plati” is giving you a brilliant illustration of the lady’s skills for poignant secret-telling, a little poisoned gift, delicately laid in your ear with barely any reverb to protect you. She is sweet, somehow spontaneous, but unsettlingly indecent, and the more attention you give her the more it starts hurting.

In a little time, though, you may notice that composition and arrangements are at the same more daring and more formal, slightly reminiscent of her earlier records. A bit more folk, a few more kitties on the keyboard. And you will be awarded a little recess and talk the inarticulate language of our feline companions on “Suli-Mon”, one of her most playful piece. Yes, a few tracks here may not be as strong as we would like. Take the time to catch your breath during “Painting the Door”, for it is merely one of her usual destructured-electrolayers+impro-like-singing. But before then, you will have to walk through “Snow“.

Lisa_Germano_Magic_NeighborIt is the dead time of night, the coldest, the darkest, or it is the snowy landscape in winter, either-or, it spreads all around, monochrome, colorless, a saturated spread of emptiness, it is sad to the point of becoming stifling, it is so quiet that it infiltrates each and every of your nerves like strings. And it does win you. So take a deep breath, as the night draws to an end, you may finally get some sleep, being lulled into a “Cocoon”, in dreams, being again drawn to a place where you can find comfort. Let’s hope tomorrow it will sound clearer to you, for it is Fall only, and the nights are getting longer and colder, and there is lot of listening to Lisa Germano to do.

Listen to “Snow”

Buy Magic Neigbor on CD or LP on Young God Records

Tiny Vipers’ Life On Earth: The Transfiguration Of Jesy Fortino

Snaking away from the indie pop accents of her debut Hands Across the Void, Jesy Fortino aka Tiny Vipers releases her second full-length album on SubPop and risks her folk inheritance to higher spheres: an immense step up.

Tiny Vipers - Life On EarthThe first play of this sixty-four minutes record will most certainly leave the hearer at a loss to tell one song apart from another, or to even discern any sort of conventional pattern in the composition of the eleven tracks. But if you think this sounds boring, the young viperidae from Seattle may prove you wrong.

Her influences include Townes Van Zandt, Neil Young, Nico, and Micheal Cashmore, and yes, from its mere primitive shape to more experimental ventures, the folk spirit quietly walks through the full length of the record. It is nevertheless difficult to label Life On Earth as a folk album, unless you think of it as a distorted and elongated entanglement of Joni Mitchell’s “Tin Angel” and Melanie Safka’s “Pebbles In The Sand“, remixed by Aidan Baker in a “Green and Cold” fashion. She inherited the almost medieval austerity of the first’s earliest works, the proto-Joanna Newsom-esque vocal figures and untechnical spontaneity of the second, and the surprising neo-classical approach to grimy contemporary pop of the last.

Yet, few comparisons will let you grasp the full horizons of Fortino’s Earth.

Only a long and worthy intimacy with her voice and minimalist guitar will help unravel its uncatchable personae and ever-changing sceneries. From the disarming introduction lyrics, “Do you remember when the world was still young…” in “Eyes Like Ours”, and the airy timelessness of “Dreamer”, to the nihilist sense of emergency and confusion of “Outside”, she ushers you through an imaginary mythology for an imaginary people, a lost volume in-between the Bible and the Verda; she tells you about death and ghosts, about the origins and future of the world, and of otherness, but, at the same time, through some fascinating and unaffected trick, leaves you the serene and immobile witness to the nearly organic attachment to memory, to the doubts and fears, and fascination for the beyond, to the unbearable self-consciousness and isolation of a thousand individuals, whose faces become blurred as centuries are swept by around you. If “Cm” sounds like a recess and is more in the traditional style of her early songs, the darkness and deconstructed frame of the following tracks, and especially the sinuous sine waves of “Twilight Property” will only hit you as a more fatal blow. There is no poison distilled in this nest of vipers though, only a miracle recipe of how to turn casual yet mysterious singing and songwriting into a mesmerising and modern ambient work.

Undoubtedly, Life On Earth is not an easy-to-share experience, but if it has not played a special part in your Summer already, it is high time you gave it a special place in your life, for it is a true and very secret gem.

Listen to “Dreamer” (MP3) on Sub Pop.

Buy Tiny Vipers “Life On Earth” on CD or digital release from Sub Pop Records.

Visit Tiny Vipers’ MySpace.

Balmorhea “All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes” (2009)

Balmorhea - All Is Wild, All Is Silent Remixes6 months ago, Balmorhea released their 3rd album, a praised effort that explored the raw landscapes of 19th-century America, in a way that furthered the path of Rachel’s. From the 9 epic songs that owe as much to post-rock and folk as they do to chamber music, 8 have now gone through the hands and ears of 11 of today’s finest sound artists, resulting in a surprising new re-interpretation of the album, now released on double-LP vinyl and digital download by Western Vinyl.

With a 17+minute opening, Eluvium sets the tone, muffling the original melody of “Settler” as an underlying guiding thread for layers of choirs and strings with looped acoustic guitars. As many of the artists here, he has chosen to strip down Balmorhea’s song, and shape their raw sound material into a much more ambient direction. Rafael Anton Irisarri and Tiny Vipers keep on with this introspective approach, both calming down the vigor of “Harm & Boon”, while Bexar Bexar’s guitar samples open up to a slightly brighter sound on his short “Elegy”. After a couple minutes of organ and creaks, Machinefabriek playfully introduces a deep, vibrating double-bass halfway through his vision of “Remembrance”. The Fun Years are the first to use a more straight-forward drum rhythm on “Coahuila”. Library Tapes has also kept the drums for that same track, but the beat gets more hesitant, as it supports an acoustic instrumentation, remaining closer to Balmorhea’s sound than any other remixer on the record. Jacaszek adds a peculiar DIY touch, with cheap percussions, and interweaving waves of organs and guitars. Helios comes next and drags “Truth” into indietronica spheres (Get the MP3 here). Quite unexpectedly, Peter Broderick litteraly addresses a letter to his dear friends from Texas as he builds on a motif of piano and choirs to which he adds his own voice and violin. On the other side of the sound spectrum, Xela eventually slowly lets “November 1, 1832″ drown into a growingly overwhelming feedback.

Compared to the Austin band’s original album, this one may sound drier. It is indeed much more abstract and experimental, the lyricism and complex song structures being left aside to the benefit of feelings and ambiences. Tearing apart and stretching out tiny bits of melodies, resonating strings and sound accidents, those 11 remixes, though illustrated with a black-and-white cover, really reveal myriads of shades through the headphones, and bring the attentive listener into a worthy contemplation of a rich and wild inner nature.


4-Track Songs: A Sneak Peek Into Peter Broderick’s Home.

A collection of home-recorded drafts and improvisations may sound like a puzzling follow-up to the polished folk of Home and the vibrant modern classic Music For Falling From Trees. At least not one to render his ever-growing rollout of projects more intelligible to a wider audience. Yet, more than any of his previous works, this 25 short tracks give a vivid overview of Peter Broderick’s sound palette… and maybe more.

Peter Broderick - 4 Track SongsThe opening “Untitled” and its fingerpicked austere bass versus chanting trebles accompanying Broderick’s voice immediately evokes his Bella Union release, while the following “Piano and Rain” is a fit illustration of his gift for unpretentious new classic experiments. Other pieces come as a surprise, like the down-tempo trip-hopish “Walking/Thinking” and the drony electro melancholy of “A Low End Rumble”. “For Pop”’s banjo shows an unprecedented country-music inversion.

Nevertheless, this few departing notes do not seem to weaken the ensemble, quite on the contrary. Bearing in mind that this is not just a demo to any of Peter’s latest releases but the 2006 random recordings, audio post-its, and research of a 19-year-old Oregon-based session musician, such heterogeneity is symptomatic of two of Peter Broderick’s greatest strengths: the open-mindedness and spontaneity of a young hard-to-categorize multi-instrumentalist.

If several folk songs in the collection fail to stand up to his 2008 album, more instrumental tracks simply bloom in the stark arrangements allowed by the 4-track recorder. The theme of Float in “More of a Composition”, a mind-blowingly fully-grown newborn, is simply transfigured. From creaking stools to swelling strings, with a pinch of throat-rattling, and a fine sprinkling of field recording, 4-Track Songs is not only a nice insight into Broderick’s workflow, it is a wonderful and moving immersion into his creative process, an unsettling journey among the intimate clutter of music instruments and sonic tropisms. In the semi-darkness of lo-fi recording, his usual blend of tense melancholy and almost naive serenity takes on a tangibly human glimmer.

Initially collected as a teaser for Type records, these 25 4-Track Songs may well set an inspiring foretaste of what Peter Broderick could achieve if he were to grow out of frames and musical genres. And for all the joy his music has brought us so far, let’s pray he eventually does!

Read Peter Broderick’s interview by our Captn.

Buy Peter Broderick “4-Track Songs” on CD, 2LP, or digital from