So much to say about this interview that I find I do complete 360 and arrive back at the mental beginning—and have nothing more to add than what Mark Hollis shares, alludes to, and implies (and more!). This excellent interview with Hollis is apparently after the completion of the Talk Talk masterpiece, Laughing Stock (read | listen)—Talk Talk’s final studio album and follow-up to their other masterpiece, Spirit of Eden (read | listen). I would love to hear the whole of this interview, but it appears to apparently be lost in the great ether, if that is possible these days. At any rate, if you are interested in the recording process, the creative process, or bringing your ideas to fruition, this interview segment is relevant.
Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times
NY Times music writer, Nate Chinen wrote a fine piece in late October on guitarist Mary Halvorson (“Mary Halvorson on Guitar: Unflinching and Full of Grace”). The article provides a nice primer, a very good entry point, if you are unfamiliar with Mary’s guitar work and collaborations. It is sprinkled with some nice direct quotes, including this one about her unique approach and sound:
Asked whether she had noticed her sound among any imitators, she replied: “Actually no, I don’t think so. I can’t think of a time when I heard someone and thought, ‘Oh, that sounds like what I’m doing.’” After a pause, she added: “Maybe that will happen. I don’t know.”
Both articles touch on Mary’s most recent release, the excellent Away With You, but the NY Times article ends with a primer that includes five releases that feature Mary’s guitar work for those wanting to dive into her catalog. In addition to the five listed releases, I would also add two more: Meltframe (from 2015) and Mary Halvorson & Noël Akchoté (released August 2016) both feature absolutely memorable musical moments. I highly recommend “Cheshire Hotel” and “Leola” off Meltframe. These two tracks illustrate Mary’s unique technique—painting her sonic landscape with just her guitar—melting, dripping, and bending notes like wet paint on a canvas, creating a fascinating and hypnotic psychedelic/temporal experience.
An artist I have not featured enough on my weekly radio show is the venerable musician Roy Harper, who turned 75 this year. In honor of that temporal milestone, Daniel Gumble from Music News caught up with Roy to talk a bit about his career through a short question and answer session. It is a quick read. In particular, this quote jumped out at me (see below). It not only articulates clearly and succinctly the challenges Roy faced in the late 60’s and 70’s (and beyond) finding a larger/broader audience, but speaks, I think, universally to the challenge artists of any discipline face when sharing the “the inner forces of themselves” as Roy describes:
”I’ve been thrown out of folk clubs for not sounding like whomever. What they want in those places are things they identify with immediately. What they wanted were things that had been sung by the union or by working people about their conditions - all of those things that were relevant to where the working man was at that point, or thought he was, put it that way. They didn't want to hear about the inner forces of themselves. They didn't want to hear anything about inner landscapes and I've kind of made a specialty of that over time. That would have been viewed by those kind of people at one stage as either sissy or irrelevant or not manly enough."
On “Celine,” the ground is ice, and the tempo glides and slips and hurtles forward with unpredictable frequencies. The floor is covered in fog on “Let’s Get One Thing Straight” and every step is an uncertain one. “Mission Acropolis” is how it feels to walk through foothills that transform into waves at first touch. “All the Pretty Horsepower” is wading through the light spectrum. “Ridge Hill” is the dance floor. It’s all motion that transforms from moment to moment, image to image, no change quite the same.
Give a listen to "Celine":
Also, check out High Risk's previous release (also excellent!), the self-titled, High Risk. Give a listen to "Molten Sunset":
As Dick Cavett best described it, this quick video is “a master lesson” with legendary pianist, Oscar Peterson. In under ten minutes, and from the great archive that was the Dick Cavettt Show, the piano master illustrates stylistic trademarks from Art Tatum’s stride, to Nat King Cole’s percussive approach, to Erroll Garner’s unique lyrical style, and much more. All in less than ten minutes, brilliant. Thanks to my cousin for directing me to this great video.
I only learned recently that on May 5th synthesist Isao Tomita passed away at the age of 84. Both synthtopia and the syndicated radio show, "Echoes" paid a tribute to this unique artist/composer. I must admit I was only familiar with the work that is linked below. It was always one of my ambient favorites, a work that always invoked a sense of nostalgia. In part because a segment of this track was used as a theme song for a radio show I used to listen to ages and ages ago that, surprisingly, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of. If you know it, let me know. I've since listened to more of his work and he what he created synthetically possesses a very organic quality. His creative force will be missed.
Explosions In The Sky officially released their latest recording, today. The new release is titled The Wilderness. NPR's All Songs Considered is featuring an excellent interview with members of the band and the discussion peels backs several layers of the creative onion revealing a fair amount about the process of making this album.
Some quotable quotes:
On the challenge of balancing computer/electronic sounds versus human-generated sound:
Rayani: We were all pretty hesitant to apply it to this thing of ours because we all have that interest of it feeling very human, very tangible. We don't want to become an electronic band. We don't want it to be where you just hit play and the song plays on its own, you know? We want to interact with these new technologies and it feel more human than robotic — and robotic is too rude of a word because music comes from so many different places now. And so we would have a conversation about, "Man this melody is strong, but what other instrument could we play it on? Or what other sound manipulation could we present it through?" These conversations were really deep and interesting, and the result was what we put onto these nine tracks.
On the dark(er) sounds that permeate places throughout the albums tracks:
James: There can't be light without darkness. If there's no shadows then you'll never see the lights. So you got to turn the whole thing up and experience the really, sort of Kubrickian terror that we're trying on some songs if you really want to hear the more delicate parts. It's a challenge, I think, as a listener, but it was something that we were OK, making it challenging. I think "challenging" was something we were searching for.