Tag Archives: Patrick Hosken

[Review: Alfred Brown, ‘Music for Moving in Slow Motion’]

It’s frustrating to wake in a world of static and desire, an easy path to silence. Silence, after all, has become antiquated in the new millennium — things that go beep in the night often plague us discreetly, becoming invisible wounds that fester and refuse to scab. Pop music runs rampant with thunderous bass boom and lyrical prattle. An entire generation breathes through a credo of “What good is it if ya can’t dance to it?”

Still, there is hope. The Asthmatic Kitty record label has put together the Library Catalog Music Series, a collection of variegated works composed by a score of talented creators, for the purpose of merely existing. The label invites you to utilize the swirling soundscapes of these records while you eat, exercise, make art, or simply carry out your day-to-day routines. Seriously. It’s just creative individuals crafting radiant, challenging art because it’s the right thing to do.

One particularly moving entry lends itself beautifully to the art of slowing down. Music for Moving in Slow Motion, an assortment of slow-churned atmospheric pieces, was created by Buffalo-based composer and audio engineer Alfred Brown, an artist whose dedication to patience will reward yours from the moment you commit to indulging in his compositions. Music for Moving in Slow Motion blends ambient minimalism with brazenly boisterous celebration sounds by way of unhurried plans. Each piece is a bag of colorful strings dumped out at half-speed over a box fan — the tails flagging at molasses pace, scurrying in constant sludge.

Take “Inchoate,” the collection’s gorgeously unfurling centerpiece. Etymologically, the word invokes a new being gradually growing into its still-undefined self. Musically, Alfred Brown’s sonata begins ill at ease with its purpose, with rattling noise smoothing out into unabashed pomp and quiet roar, until it steadies upon its new legs and proclaims its post-post rock grandeur. The video below shows how Brown constructed the distinctive guitar sound at the center of the composition. The song is a 14-minute embryonic metamorphosis of dripping splendor and uncalculated beauty, culminating in a brilliant slip out the back door.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqQJyJ7rBqI&feature=player_embedded%5D

You won’t hear “Inchoate” on the radio (except on The Upstate Soundscape, of course), but you wouldn’t want to anyway. You’d want to hear this — need to hear this — at a proper time. (At home in your bathtub as you carefully trace circles on a frosty wine glass, while capriciously summiting a great mountain of suds, etc.)

Of course, Music for Moving in Slow Motion need not be entirely self-indulgent. The playful three-part suite of “Voice of Animals and Men” dips into Owen Pallett-approved giddy violin glee, snowy bell-chirping and peppy clock-chiming, showing off Brown’s knack for chamber-ready whimsy. “The Littlest Waves (a soundtrack for drowning)” induces discomfort, settling like a bad shot of bourbon, churning around unpleasantly in the ether of the unknown. The brass croon of “A Burning Too Hot to Endure” sounds like a Neutral Milk Hotel concert underwater.

The parallels serve only as reference points. Alfred Brown has fashioned an organic aural experience, one perhaps best summed up by the title of the album’s third-last piece: “A Tussle That Will End in Bearhugs.” You’ll brave the cloudy weather of the album’s mysteries, weathering your own resistance, because of an impulse to feel moved. In the end, you’ll come away embracing all the foggy inscrutability that made it memorable.

Music for Moving in Slow Motion is proof that on certain half-moonlit nights, the best option is the one that requires patience. When silence is unattainable, this 14-song set of moody mini-symphonies will supply the next best thing — a dappled color palette with which to paint your own emotions.

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Review by Patrick Hosken

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[Review: Charlemagne Palestine & Janek Schaefer ‘Day of the Demons’]

Charlemagne Palestine (Charles Martin by birth name) originally studied as a cantor, though his early compositions dealt in drones and belfry-booming carillon bells. Throughout his storied career as a minimalist, the Brooklyn-born Palestine has crafted works that sound miles away from anything typically “American.” Out on Buffalo’s Desire Path Recordings, his latest, Day of the Demons, a joint effort with sound artist and composer Janek Schaefer, continues that trend.

Beginning with a simple drone, Day of the Demons slowly blooms into a blustery composition populated with delicately pronounced vowels and subtle bell chimes. Vocal chants linger above, sporadically dipping below the drone, redoubling as a ghostly chorus. It’s a series of slow-motion atomic blasts, each new shockwave mushrooming and settling in on itself like a collapsed blanket. It’s peering into another dimension to view a choir of flaggy wraiths as the staunch mourning bell tolls of fire nips at their bottoms. All this in the twenty-minute “Raga de L’pres midi pour Aude,” which comprises Side A of the release.

Day of the Demons Eastern-influenced sounds are alive and roaming here as the beehive of melting sound never settles into the parameters of “major” or “minor” tonality. Instead, we get a slow burn of mystic rhythm and spirit, garnished with an airy vocal sheen. The voices on the recording are both Palestine’s and Schaefer’s which, when combined with a shruti box and bits of harmonica sounds, create the contemplative, meditative first side of Day of the Demons.

After those sounds rumble away, a piercing melodica enters with shaky chimes rattling all around it. This is Side B , “Fables From a Far Away Future,” which features field recordings from a street carnival nearby the Brussels studio where the pair completed the album. The jam-packed “Fables” features intermittent desk bells that keep the atmosphere playful while still mysterious — a must. The track’s full, yet not overcrowded, and its twenty minutes enable it to become a journey, a travelogue of sorts for an avant-garde mind.

People’s voices cut in and vanish quickly. Words are unimportant; sounds are everything. Spots of ominous crunch dab the song in black, then tiny bells rescue it (and us) before total cataclysm. It’s big-top sound exploration, a detour from the ornate, decorative frontispiece of life’s carousel to the gritty, anxious back alley where piles of unwon giant teddy bears fill the dumpsters. And at the end, after all the bulbs burn out and wet newspapers line the street, you stroll through the deserted tents in dawn’s purple glow, acutely aware of the pleasant peculiarity of it all.

This is what Charlemagne Palestine and Janek Schaefer have accomplished on Day of the Demons. It’s a trip, a grand shuffle and a gratifying listen. Serve with wine or, as Palestine likes to imbibe on stage, cognac and cloves. Headphones or bulbous speakers a must. Eyes closed. Enjoy.

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Review by Patrick Hosken


[Review: Sink\Sink, ‘The Darkest Dark Goes’]

“Oh, to be an astronaut,” croons sink \ sink frontwoman–and Albany native–Kim Schulke at the end of “Astronavt,” the leadoff track from The Darkest Dark Goes. Though the titular star-climber might make a career out of exploring the blackness of space, Schulke doesn’t. Her voice is sweet and airy like a night fairy swimming through milky constellations. And while her voice retains an earthy element, it’s not quite as dark as dark gets—in fact, the whirling guitar and piano noise that accompanies her creates a bright sound. The darkness on this release from net label Feedback Loop lies in the empty space between those two extremes.

“Astronavt” is only one of nine tracks on the album, but it’s archetypal of the moods sink \ sink captures so vividly. “Wild Eyes” builds on the minimalist arrangements with intermittent blasts of sonic texture like long light-shadows cast by passing streetlamps in a car. So far, we’ve been so enraptured by the nuances that we’ve forgotten about percussion altogether. sink \ sink knows this, of course, so they inject a gust of crunchy drums midway through “Place That I Love” to up the ante. Schulke’s ethereal voice lingers above the chaos long enough to permeate and settle, leaving the listener craving for more.

This formula works, but could easily get stale. So sink \ sink tweaks each subsequent song to beckon different emotions. The paranoid “Gurksy” sludges along for four minutes like a pretty piece of lo-fi shoegaze, while the loud-quiet-loud dynamic of “Mojave” calls to mind the potential desperate mirages of its title location. Schulke’s voice is the constant, but her band’s complex musicianship creates layers of atmospheric support. New Zealand musician Gareth Schott and Bostonian producer Callum Plews lay a pipeline of piano and toothy blankets of fuzz on which Schulke’s voice can radiate.

With its furious upstrokes and deceptively sweet melody, the title track recalls “Welcome to the Machine,” even up to its frantic dump-all-your-toys-on-the-floor ending. It’s mood music, and the best way to experience it is to allow yourself some time to feel out the landscapes. Starting with an innocent daydream about space and ending up back on earth in time to catch the dusk in “Sunset Song,” sink \ sink has managed to capture fragments of the dreamworld and make them comprehensible in the real world—for that, we owe them our thanks.

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Review by Patrick Hosken


[Review: Bent Spoon Duo, ‘Price of Darkness’]

At first glance, the new release by Calgary’s Bent Spoon Duo might appear to evoke the name of the king of the underworld. Though there’s no “n” in the title’s first word, Price of Darkness is still a dark cassette that sounds like Bent Spoon Duo members Chris Dadge and Scott Munro are roaming around a pitch black basement tripping over piles of stacked kitchenware and rusty gardening equipment, frantically searching for a light switch.

Released by Buffalo’s House of Alchemy label, this cassette contains an “A” and a “B” side, both loaded with organic tape hiss and creaky string-scraping. Noises fall in and out with no discernible shape, but its all part of Bent Spoon Duo’s caustic creativity. Take the clamoring meltdown about 10 minutes into side “A” where a jumbled motor of string-drag becomes a series of rabid animal growls. All the while, a woozy synth pattern lurks behind, keeping the song from spiraling out of control. It’s a brave game to play, and Bent Spoon Duo plays it well.

Side “B” follows suit with its rolling tape sound and collection of things that go bump in the night. But “B” dares to explore the possibility of expansion through a series of melodic false starts. The synthetic motor spins on, dragging along the action, and the basement monster comes back to life with a series of high-pitched cries.

To use inorganic means to create organic sounds—now there’s a challenge. But Bent Spoon Duo finds the means to accomplish that through a twisted symphony of electronic feedback and string abuse. While Price of Darkness could double as creepy Halloween music, it’s not that shallow. Its 31 minutes contain all the gnarled shadows of your own mind, and you might come to believe that Bent Spoon Duo knows your own nightmares far deeper than you do.

It’s the crooked joy of possibility—and its jolting ending—that make Price of Darkness a fresh listen. Like tripping through that dark basement, the joy here lies in the discovery of something you had no idea was there.

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Review by Patrick Hosken


[Review: Paper Armies/Desert of Hiatus Split]

Ithaca’s known for its dazzling natural scenery (‘Ithaca is Gorges’—I’m sure you’ve seen the T-shirts). Musician Jason Calhoun mans the reins as Ithaca’s Paper Armies, an ambient post-rock act that distills Ithaca’s gorgeous landscapes into palatable bursts of emotion. He’s a master mixologist, using only piano, guitar, and vocals to blend the aesthetic beauty of a foggy forest with dulcet compositions.

Take “Trying to Let Go,” the scratchy opener from Paper Armies’ latest release, a split with Portland’s Desert of Hiatus. Beginning with some pins-and-needles distortion, “Trying to Let Go” eventually settles into a full-blown dream. A thick fog envelops the track at its halfway point and doesn’t subside until the end. Again, a perfect mingling of mental sight and sound.

Calhoun’s had some practice with his art, creating music under the Paper Armies name since late 2009. He released the first Paper Armies album in summer 2010 and made it available for free download on his Bandcamp page. This new split release with Desert of Hiatus features more of what’s made Paper Armies unique—the jagged twang of post-rock influence to mostly ambient sounds.

“Palm Tree” could be a cousin of Sigur Rós’ “Njósnavélin” (a.k.a. “The Nothing Song”) with its underwater miasma coated by a glaze of saw-toothed fuzz. Calhoun’s voice is in there somewhere, but you can’t tell exactly where. Those smoggy moans could be real words or meaningless vowel sounds. But it doesn’t matter; it’s all about quiet intensity. The meaning is there. You might just have to inject it yourself.

It seems strange to say there’s an instrumental interlude on an already instrumental collection of songs, but there is. The minute-and-a-half “Heretic” lacks the billowing unfurl of its companion tracks, opting for a steady stream of breathy tones instead. They rise and fall like waves on a pale beach of noise before simply quieting down for good. It’s a great approach, a brief pause between two pairs of controlled sound-spill.

Five songs, nearly twenty minutes and lots of space to connect the dots. That’s Ithaca’s Paper Armies: pure dream music. The yearning feeling that comes from stargazing. Maybe even the stuff that plays inside the womb for all we know. Whatever it is, it’s special and it’s unforgettable.

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Review by Patrick Hosken


[Review: Odonis Odonis, ‘Hollandaze’]

(Fat Cat Records)

What music would you associate with Adonis, the chiseled Greek god of beauty and desire? For my money, it would be the uber-cheesy piano lounge-pop of Barry Manilow. Think about it—all those screaming Fanilows lined up, pretending the casino buffet plates they’re clutching are the muscular arms of their idol. For them, that’s beauty.

But not for us. Those plastic ideas of “perfect” love are just as counterfeit as Barry’s tan. If you know what it’s like to love something, you realize how dirty the whole ordeal can be. Love is grungy. Love is a dirt-stained T-shirt.

When you listen to Toronto’s Odonis Odonis, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with their self-described brand of “surf-gaze.” Luckily, the courting process is short. It won’t be the Hallmark-card love of Adonis, but something stranger. Engage in Odonis Odonis’ latest album, Hollandaze, and let the caustic beach twang of the title track slide into your bloodstream. Soon, you’ll hear leader Dean Tzenos’s distant wails, clamoring in the mix of piercing cymbal noise and distortion. You won’t know what the hell he says, but you’ll stay to find out.

Through 11 songs, Tzenos’s voice tends to crouch beneath grand brick walls of noise. He lets his arrangements howl for themselves, siren-loud guitar blasts punctuating his gurgles on the psyched-up zombie-punkers “White Flag Riot” and “New World.” When tangible syllables actually emerge on the slow-burning and ghostly “Seedgazer,” you realize it’s all been worth it.

An unexpected jewel in the harsh brine of Hollandaze’s musicality is the prominence of rhythm. “Basic Training” and “We Are the Left Overs” both rely on bass grooves to propel the tracks forward, fleshed out by pumping drums.

The meat of Tzenos’ music is how it combines the best of his favorite music from his youth. His sisters exposed him to ‘80s and ‘90s alternative and noise pop—The Jesus and Mary Chain, Big Black and Pixies are all listed on his website as influences. No single source, however, takes up too much space, he writes. Like M83’s Anthony Gonzales, Tzenos cooks up a hearty stew of multiple musical meats, often spanning genres in the same song.

Sure, Hollandaze’s barbed terrain might frighten some away. But hey man, that’s love; getting scorched is just part of the deal. Odonis Odonis isn’t the epitome of stereotypical beauty—it’s messier. But that just makes it more authentic.

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Review by Patrick Hosken


[2011 in Review: SoundSound Shaman, ‘Breathe’]

It’s not just a clever moniker—Rami Abu-Sitta (a Buffalonian now in residing San Diego) truly is a Sound Shaman. With great attention to sonic detail, SoundSound Shaman fashions his own miniature worlds on this impressive EP. Natural sounds are hidden in every corner of Breathe including a 51-second opening segment of falling rain which the artist recorded from his own window while residing on Buffalo’s Elmwood Avenue. That cascading intro then leads gently into the enigmatic and dreamlike “Raining Down Nonsense,” a slow unfolding of chiming keyboards and resounding nonsensical voices. A fitting way for this ethereal EP to begin.

Doubling the first word in his stage name perhaps signifies SoundSound Shaman’s penchant for miniscule grandeur. While that might seem like an oxymoron when speaking about an ambient artist, Breathe’s majesty lies in Abu-Sitta’s ability to maximize the minimal. Using little more than the droning hum of his voice, he leaves space on “Flying Over Tibet” in which listeners can meditate, contemplate, or simply let the sounds reverberate.

Listening is one way to experience Breathe; thanks to Soundcloud, however, listeners can literally see the shape of these songs as they listen via the waveforms. This visual aide provides an interesting insight into the music: the bell-shaped cones of intensifying and decelerating power in “Rise,” the heartbeat flutters in the middle of “Flower Pedal Blooming” and so on. Keep those mental images—as well as the album’s title—in mind as you endure the echoing whirl of SoundSound Shaman.

  [vimeo:http://vimeo.com/28161468%5D

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Review by Patrick Hosken