the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


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Goodbye, WHM?

I am having to let more things go… and this is really hard.

I know that some of you know that those independent music labels are appreciative of any sort of exposure they can get. But I feel that I have been dragging them along a little bit.

I have a perfectionist streak and that’s probably why I don’t get articles done faster. I did get into a niche where I wrote mostly on instrumental music, but… I think that from a marketing standpoint, it would have been better if I had finished press sooner.

I continue to struggle with health issues and now I have a child with special needs. Those of you reading already have an idea. I want to say that I am being more fair to them, but really, of course, I am letting go of pressure on myself.

I partly hung on and was duplicating articles because I wanted to keep Ex-Voxers remembering that We Heart Music started out on VOX. But I suspect that many just chose to forget; although Vu was considering WordPress (and he discussed it with me so I do know where he is coming from), he went with TypePad. Kinda disappointing because oh YES, it really is easier with native audio support… and really, articles got a lot easier to do there. I don’t think Vu knocks himself out half so much or maybe some of you remember how much VOX had to be tweaked with HTML code or Javascript commands.

Ergh… I am going to write the e-mail now. Best not to put it off.


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So behind on the music blogging

In addition to more submissions from Hibernate Records in the UK, I’ve been quietly getting requests from Psychonavigation Records, which… I’m not sure where they are from. The e-mails are coming from a Keith Downey who is reportedly based out of Dublin, as in Ireland. (Works for me, I’ve got a 1st cousin once removed who has a studio in Dublin– maybe you’ve heard of him? Don Bluth, the animator.)

So I sent out e-mail replies, saying I’ve been a little bogged down with health issues and putting the kids back to school, but that I’d do what I could.

I want to be polite. Really, I do. But I do have to admit that because they are struggling independent labels and pretty much say upfront that they are happy for any exposure at all, well, I don’t think they can be too upset with me.


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Vince Clarke: Collaborations with Martin Gore and The Good Natured

VCMG

Last February, Mute sent us a press release to promote “Fill Us With Fire”, from Erasure’s album Tomorrow’s World.  While I was quite happy to write up an article as such, I really was hoping they might send us information about Ssss, which was a collaborative project Erasure member Vince Clarke did with Martin Gore.  The album was released that next month, on March 12.

Vince Clarke and Martin Gore as VCMG – As seen on Amazon. “Provided by the artist or their representative” and all rights reserved as such

Mute never did send us anything (despite my attempts to contact the producer that e-mailed us), but I happily bought a digital copy of the album anyways. This work was exciting to me (and I’m sure other fans will agree) because Vince Clarke and Martin Gore are two of the founding members of Depeche Mode, but had not actively worked together since Clarke left the band in 1981.  They are both accomplished musicians and composer/songwriters in their own right, and have plenty of fans with their separate projects, but I felt them coming together was something special.

According to the Mute website, the album was completed in a rather unusual way, with the two working alone in their own respective studios and exchanging files by e-mail.  But what I think it a little more worthy of mention is Vince Clarke’s continuing dedication to analog synthesizers.  The tone and quality of the sound is different.  While computer software has given artists much more freedom in creating, mixing, and producing music, the sounds produced are not quite the same as those on the hardware side.

Please see my previous articles for Lowfish (read: “Lo-fi-ish”), Gejius, and Frame the City for comparative examples.  Selections from Ssss can also be found on Mute’s channel at YouTube.  (I agree with Vu that the YouTube player looks horrid, so I’ll skip an embed this time.  Sorry.)

THE GOOD NATURED

We also got an e-mail from an electropop band called The Good Natured, saying they got a wonderful opportunity to work with Clarke on a mixtape, which included another collaboration project called “The Ghost Train”.

You can listen to the mixtape and download “The Ghost Train” at their website: http://thegoodnatured.co.uk/mixtape/  Please note that the link to download the single automatically creates a promotional tweet on your Twitter account.  I didn’t mind, though, as some other artists are using this method, too.  I’d be excited to work with Vince Clarke and said so in a follow-up tweet:

@thegoodnatured Vince Clarke is a legend… pleased to share the love for your project with him!

I also looked around at their other social network connections and noted that their post-punk, synthpop influences were not just reflected in their music, but also in their look (hairstyles, makeup, clothing, etc.)  Very, very reminiscent of all the bands they say they are inspired by.  As I said before, kids today are wearing looks I haven’t seen for about 20 years… when I was about their age.  They’re also listening to and creating music that way, and much of it is all the New Wave, “alternative”, early MTV sort of styles.  (Apologies to all my hair-metal loving friends.)  Really takes me back and I’m looking forward to see what this will bring to the electronica scene.


jaklumen () ♥ http://mute.com/artists/vcmghttp://thegoodnatured.co.uk/mixtape/


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Isnaj Dui: Abstracts on Solitude

During much of my time here with We Heart Music, I’ve written on referrals that Vu has sent my way.  A few times, however, I find an independent record label that has a good bead on my listening interests, and I write exclusively for them for a little while.

www.hibernate-recs.co.uk

This lovely decal was sent along with some CDs in the post. I’m still trying to think best where to put it where the public can see it.

Of late, the label is Hibernate, based in the UK.  I’ve written for Hibernate artists Antonymes and Will Bolton previously.  Speaking very generally, the music has appealed to me as it’s been very ambient and dream-like in nature.  I usually try to listen actively with headphones (which I am doing as I write this) but sometimes I’ll put a disc in the player for the music to sit in the background.

Writing about instrumental music can be very difficult.  As I’ve said before, I find myself repeating the same advice over and over: “listen with headphones” and “decide for yourself”.  Fortunately, the press releases for Hibernate artists are very informative and such material makes my work much easier.  Currently, I have been asked to write about Isnaj Dui, who is Katie English, hailing from North London, UK.  “Abstracts on Solitude”, her first album for Hibernate, was released June 8th and arrived to me by CD along with a copy of of Wil Bolton’s “Under A Name That Hides Her” (which I had requested) and a copy of a collaborative work (Isnaj Dui & Karina ESP: Slow Forms).

This was a few weeks ago.  I apologize for being slow in reviewing this; but I have been in very poor health recently.  It is partly because of that that I will reference the press release liberally, but also because it is very well written and references what I think are important details.  I do not say that lightly as I have read many others for other music I have reviewed and so much is flowery words crafted to draw public interest.  That said,  I am left to guess as to how she came up with the name “Isnaj Dui”; it sounds vaguely Hindi to me.

The following is a lovely example of how press releases for Hibernate artists include information about instrumentation and how the album is created:

With a history of recording and musical study that spans back to 1995, Katie’s current sound is characterised by her use of flute, particularly the bass flute. This is generally a rarely used instrument but is used frequently throughout her work as a defining feature. Add to this a few home-made instruments and electronics and you have the very distinctive sound of
Isnaj Dui, a project that has been active since 2004.

Abstracts In Solitude cover art – Isnaj Dui, Hibernate Records. All rights reserved.

The release also explains the album’s cover art as “an out of focus image of wires and circuit boards which was taken as part of a film made for a gig at the Union Chapel [venue].”  It goes on to explain how such wires and circuit boards literally shape the album:

…the wires and circuit boards that you see in the
cover art are allowed a voice within the album, which lightly scatter the organic sound of
flutes and dulcimer. Effects and processing is kept to a minimum wherever possible and only
the slightest trace of this is clearly evident. It is within these subtle electronic infiltrations
that the album’s charm can be found, as restrained shards of noise, circuit boards, reverb
and light hiss rest comfortably on a soft and atmospheric bed created by the acoustic
instrument sounds.

The last bit of the release, as follows, is another fine example of how Hibernate illuminates the creative process of its artists:

On ‘What Lies Inside’, Katie had created an immediate response to
having suffered a panic attack as a sort of recovery mechanism. The composition process
comes from deep within, since she relies more on sub-conscious thought when recording.
Whilst Abstract On Solitude is free from clear conceptual confines, it is its sense of lulling
calm that becomes the calling card.

The last sentence brings a smile to my lips because it repeats much more beautifully what I said earlier: instrumental music is difficult to write about (listeners should judge for themselves) and that Katie English as Isnaj Dui is another defining example of the dream-like music of Hibernate’s artists.


jaklumen ( jaklumen.wordpress.com) ♥ www.hibernate-recs.co.uk


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Loop 2.4.3 (Further down the rabbit hole in E-burg)

The Return of Chickchi (WHM promotional shot)
What a busy, busy weekend.

If the photos weren’t already a huge indication, I got to witness something pretty special– something that doesn’t happen in my stomping grounds very often.

I wrote a review of a musical group three years ago, and last Friday, I got to meet the musicians in person and experience the music live. And it’s pretty rare when hardworking professionals show up to a school, much less one I used to attend, and take some time to share with students what they do and allow them to study their own work. Yes, these guys have their publisher print out copies of their music, and they let students perform it.

THAT is pretty awesome, my dear readers.

After the clinic/recital, Professor Mark Goodenberger (Director of Percussion Studies) and another faculty member I can’t remember the name of invited the guys to grab a meal at the Wing Central on campus. They were gracious enough to let me tag along.

There is a funny story about me ordering a fiery spicy Hellwing, signing a waiver for it (yes, really), eating it, and surviving– with all at the table to witness, especially Lorne Watson (yes, the bearded guy in the video). But mostly we just talked shop, schmoozed, and generally hung out.

I couldn’t be happier. Before I left, Thomas got me a copy of the CD, so I could listen to it before I went home. As Stuart Wolferman (their producer, of Unfinished Side Productions) mailed me another copy that came in the mail to me today, when I got home, I gave the first copy to my father. He wanted to come, but he wound up chauffering my daughter and my son around that day.

I don’t get paid for reviewing music… but this was SO worth it!


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Loop 2.4.3: American Dreamland


Tour Dates

04/24/12 CSUSB “Music Tuesdays” – San Bernardino, CA
04/25/12 Music at Noon Concert Series – Santa Clara, CA
04/25/12 Saratoga Retirement Community – Saratoga, CA
04/26/12 Saratoga Library – Saratoga, CA 95070
04/26/12 CNMAT – Berkeley, CA

Read More
Loop 2.4.3

These have been my thoughts reflecting on Zodiac Dust, an album by Loop 2.4.3, set to be released June 16th on the Music Starts From Silence label. I would be content to simply write, “I cannot say much more; hear for yourself;”

I will repeat what I said when I reviewed Loop 2.4.3’s last album, Zodiac Dust, three years ago:

There is artistic work that is not so much simply seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted, as much as experienced.  Hence it is something you must take in for yourself, and a critical review simply falls short.

 Their newest album, American Dreamland, was released today, and with that album, that sentiment I had is even truer than ever.  I would say more so, actually, because I met Thomas Kozumplik and Lorne Watson, who comprise Loop 2.4.3, in person this time.  I went to a percussion clinic and recital they held last Friday (April 20) at my old university, Central Washington University, in Ellensburg, WA.  I got to know them a little bit.  I saw the instruments up close and personal, like the eLog and the Rose Echo.  I heard them perform music from Zodiac Dust and American Dreamland.  Along with the percussion students from the university, I got better explanations of the instruments, the music, and the musicians.

Listening to a studio-produced album is one thing.  Experiencing a live performance and getting to know the musicians and their music is quite another.

I mentioned in the Zodiac Dust review that Music Starts From Silence (their publisher) had started offering written manuscripts of music by Loop 2.4.3.  What I failed to mention is something I had learned from signing up for the group’s newsletter, and that this was part of education outreach to the schools.  Being a classically schooled musician myself, I got very excited.  This does not happen very often, that recording and touring musicians come back to the schools, teach about what they do, and offer their music for students to perform themselves.  I suppose this is not so unusual back East, but for those of us out West, it’s huge.  After the clinic, I remember Thomas talking about their appearance the day before in La Grande, Oregon.  He remembered that the students there were very receptive and appreciative, and I said that was true of many of us who were much more isolated and not surrounded by metropolitan cities.

I could write and expound more on the press releases I received to describe their music, especially that of American Dreamland, but it’s much easier for me to say that Thomas and Lorne are just hard working musicians that will take any idea they can to cultivate creative work.  Lorne was quite articulate on this point, explaining to the students and I that they worked with a beat/slam poet, and classical dancers, and adjusted their performances accordingly.  The diversity of instruments you play is helpful, he said, especially for freelance gigs.  That made sense when Thomas said he’d used the steel drum to play with chamber music ensembles (viola, bassoon, etc.).  It fit somehow, he said, by using a lighter touch when playing.

I should point out that Loop 2.4.3 is not only working with university students, but with grade school students as well.  I asked Lorne about the Native American flute he was playing (which is featured in American Dreamland), especially as he said earlier that he considered them easier to play than the recorders that are featured quite extensively in many elementary schools.  He recommended Stellar Flutes, and in particular their flute kits, which can be carved by students to their liking.  (I found the link when I got home and showed it to my 9-year old daughter, who was quite enthusiastic.)

Perhaps a video would be more illustrative of what this clinic and recital was like:

 It really was something truly special.  Hanging out, talking shop, and generally schmoozing afterwards at a hot wings restaurant was a nice way to end the day.

American Dreamland is available on CD, 12” (180 gram) vinyl, and digital download from Music Starts From Silence, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, and more.  

Thomas Kozumplik and Lorne Watson, dba Music Starts From Silence, are sponsored artists by NYC’s Tax Exempt Foundation, THE FIELD.  All donations are tax-deductible and help to support Loop 2.4.3’s touring and outreach activities.  See loop243.com/get-involved for details.


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Loop 2.4.3 (Ellensburg appearance)

The Return of Chickchi (WHM promotional shot)UndergroundAs A Child (Thom closeup on steel drum)American Elder (flash fill-in)American Elder (no flash)Alchemy II: Dreamland (flash fill-in, Thom closeup)
As A Child (closeup)Alchemy II: Dreamland (no flash)Alchemy II: Dreamland (no flash, Thom closeup)Alchemy II: Dreamland (no flash, alternate shot)Alchemy II: Dreamland (flash fill-in)Zodiac Dust (Lorne closeup)

Via Flickr:
Loop 2.4.3 is Lorne Watson and Thomas Kozumplik, a percussion duo based in Brooklyn, NY. This was at a percussion clinic/recital held at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, and is part of their American Dreamland Tour Program 2012, which is ongoing and includes appearances at schools across the United States.

jaklumen writes for We Heart Music (a music promotional website) and covered their previous recording, Zodiac Dust. A review for their current recording, American Dreamland, is forthcoming.

[If you recall me talking about writing for a music blog– this is part of what I do. This, however, was something special. –jak]