Eluvium and other worthwhile music

I’m going to post about one album I’ve really enjoyed lately, and then post a few words about other neat finds.

The Big Pleasure: Eluvium’s Lambent Material

Maybe you don’t like The Orb; I can understand that, but please don’t make the mistake of thinking all ambient music is like The Orb. For example, consider Brian Eno. Consider the soundscapes of John Cage. And please, definitely consider the music of Matthew Cooper, who records under the pseudonym Eluvium.

My first impressions listening to it, right now, are that it is a kind of sweet, slow, Brian Enoesque thing, but with something just a little different mixed in. There are bits that remind me of other artists I’ve heard and forgotten; it feels as if Cooper remembered the bits worth remembering, and put them into the smelter to come up with the ore out of which he hammered his debut album, Lambent Material. The track under the water it glowed whispers loudly of Flying Saucer Attack, and in other places I hear ghosts (or more) of Erik Satie and Brian Eno wandering. This is someone who could, I think, hold his own in a jam session with Sigur Ros, or with the ghost of Nick Drake, even.

“there wasn’t anything” is a track that stands out for me, one that is astonishingly mood-inducing. The mood is strange, a little sad and a little resigned, and it feels like the mood of a very, very old man for some reason. “zerthis was a shivering human” is the really Flying Saucer Attack-ish track. But you know what? The whole thing is worth listening to a few times.

Other Pleasures

Some things I’ve listened to lately that are really worth a listen, and which I may write about later:

  • John Zorn & Sato Michihiro: Ganryu Island (1984) John Zorn is the Western avant garde monster from hell. Pair him with Sato Michihiro, a Japanese avant-garde Shamisen player, and what do you get? Something pretty odd. More often than not, the saxophone isn’t quite recognizable; it more often sounds like a screaming ghost or a muttering demon. The album is very, very interesting, though, and I am starting to enjoy it quite a lot, and thinking that fusion between Western and Eastern avant garde can indeed be more fruitful than what I’ve seen in Korea thus far.
  • Dntel: Life is Full of Possibilities (2001) This is more woogy sorta-ambient, sorta-staticky, sorta weird stuff. Quite worth hearing.
  • Rechenzentrum: Director’s Cut (2003) Still more ambient wooginess. A little more avantgarde, lots of found sounds layered together over loops and such; but it’s cool.
  • Keith Jarrett Trio: Standards Volume 1 (1983) In the last year or so I’ve gotten back into Keith Jarrett. The man’s trio is solid, rock solid, and has been for years. Before, it was only his poetical, beautiful solo work I was into, plus some of the things he did with Dewey Redman back in the day. But his trio work with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, man, this stuff is very, very, very good. It transcends that “jazz” thing, into just wonderful improvisation that happens to be jazz. Nothing against jazz, of course, as you can see from my next entry. It’s just, sometimes it’s nice to see people who are expanding the vocaulary of the genre so much that the meaning of the genre begins to bend and break again, as it has done in the past. And the most amazing thing is that he is still doing it, even today.
  • John Coltrane Quartet: One Down, One Up: Live At the Half Note (1965) One of my composition professors, David Scott, always insisted that the name of a piece of music necessarily included the year of composition — that the year of composition was crucial to the identification of the piece, especially with twentieth-century music. Now, with John Coltrane and his Quartet, the year 1965 bodes well. It means McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, Elvin Jones. It means fiery, tightly-wound, deeply constructed business. It means improvisation that blows you away every time, even moreso when you’re talking about live shows. This thing is a beauty, this album, a rare gem I just stumbled upon lately. Fine, fine stuff.
  • Nouvelle Vague: Nouvelle Vague (2004) This is a bossa-nova album of remakes of New Wave songs like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and The Cure’s “A Forest” sung by “half a dozen French and Brazilian vocalists who were unfamiliar with the original versions”. Weird, and I don’t know most of the songs, but the ones I do know, well, hearing them this way is just plain funny, except there’s no joke intended, it seems. It’s kind of like seeing a close-up of a orange-peel, in that you don’t know what it is for a few moments, and then — of course! that’s it! Probably more fun for you than for me, for most of you out there.

Well, that should keep you all busy for a while. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to comment, recommend, criticise, disagree, or whatever.

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