Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Winter Garden’s Dreamy Atmospherics

In most cases, music that’s billed as relaxing is better described as soporific. Which isn’t always a bad thing: sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep! The true test of sleepy music is how well it holds up during waking hours. Winter Garden, a collaboration between poet/pianist Harold Budd, Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie and producer Eraldo Bernocchi is a rare example of an album that successfully works both sides of the line between dreams and reality. Although there are a couple of tracks that Guthrie propels with a steady bassline, there isn’t much rhythm here: as with Budd’s previous work with Brian Eno, textures fade in and fade out of the mix, with gentle tectonic shifts, cloudy banks of atmospherics and a minimalist melodic sensibility that orchestrates gently echoing piano and guitar motifs with a watery iciness. It’s tempting to say that this is simply music to get lost in, to escape into after a hard day without trying to make sense of what the musicians are doing. And while it’s often hard to tell who’s playing what, or whether it might be the guitar or the piano that just hit a particular, endlessly echoing note, it’s also a lot of fun to listen to closely (although if you are fatigued, it might send you straight to dreamland).

Guthrie’s signature moody, sostenuto guitar is instantly identifiable, although it’s not obvious what else he does here. Nor is Bernocchi’s role clear – but maybe that’s the point of all this. Budd’s simple, elegant piano lines occasionally offer a nod to Erik Satie or even Bernard Albrecht. The opening track, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Find You is hypnotic to the extreme, simple piano processed to add the effect of a succession of cloudy waves. Losing My Breath features Guthrie’s trademark major sixth chords and simple, thoughtful motifs processed with chilly, cloudy ambience alongside minimal processed piano. As many of these tracks do, it segues into the title cut, which alludes to an anthemic theme.

With its steady bass pulse, Entangled offers pensive echoes of The Eternal by Joy Division, which come to the forefront on the next track, Harmony and the Play of Light, so much that you may find yourself expecting Ian Curtis’ doomed voice to appear over the starkly echoing, trebly-toned midrange electric piano licks. Heavy Heart Some More completes the trilogy, intermingling spacious, minimalist bass chords and piano with Guthrie’s atmospheric guitar for what sounds like a halfspeed (or quarterspeed or even slower) variation on the theme. They follow that with White Ceramic, a miniature juxtaposing echoey piano waves with drony textures underneath.

The rest of the album manages to be eclectic without breaking the spell. Stay with Me builds from low drones to a Lynchian (and unexpectedly funky) suspense theme, while the most epic track here, South of Heaven contrasts rapt, shimmery ambience with gently incisive piano and more of Guthrie’s trademark pensive swooshes. The final cut, Dream On is not an Aerosmith cover but a minimalist piano lullaby. Youarefallingasleepyouarefallingasleepyouarefallingasleep…just kidding. Turn on, tune in, you know the rest. It’s out now on Rare Noise Records.

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April 6, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/3/10

Less than a month til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1! Saturday’s song is #26:

Joy Division – New Dawn Fades

Prelude to a suicide note: “A loaded gun won’t set you free, so they say.” Bernard Albrecht’s jangly, watery guitar carries the understatedly plaintive intensity. From Unknown Pleasures, 1979.

July 3, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 5/28/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Friday’s song is #62:

Joy Division – Ice Age

Punk rock meets noise-rock with Bernard Albrecht (that was his name then) scorching his way down the fretboard on this fast, frenetic smash released on Still in 1981.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Insound Digital Mixtape July 2009

Quick, how many New Order wannabes can you name? This mixtape seeems to have all of ’em, many of them featured at this year’s Seaport Music Festival. If the original wasn’t enough for you, here are the sons and daughters of Bernard, Gillian and Steve (Peter deserves better than most of this because he’s a good musician whose personal taste in music runs far afield of this catchy but mostly derivative stuff). Let’s see what we have here:

 

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Tooth Decay. Vocoder vox, hypnotic 80s synth, New Order meets Midnight Starr – catchy and simple. They’re playing South St. Seaport on 7/24.

Blank Dogs – Waiting (mix 2). Uptight, untight drums, early New Order i.e. circa Movement, when they were a guitar band but with a late 80s shoegaze edge. Could be better, but it has some promise.

Casiokids – Verdens Storste Land demo. Closer to the synthy stuff New Order were doing on Brotherhood and afterward

Dan Friel – Ghost Town Pt. 1. New Order as played on a dollar-store imitation Casio through the bottom-of-the-line Guitar Center brand amp

Here We Go Magic – Fangela. Less New Order than 60s psychedelic pop done demo-style with a drum machine and barely demo-quality vocals. A good guitar band like the Motion Sick could have a field day with this.

Obits – Two-Headed Coin. Catchy 60s bass riff, reverb-drenched 60s garage guitar, kinda noir. Best track on the cd so far. Hmmm…ought to check this band out sometime. They’re at South St. Seaport on 7/31 opening for Polvo, supposedly sometime around 7.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Come Saturday. Total Teenage Fanclub ripoff, i.e. middle-period Jesus & Mary Chain without any balls. The first real dud here. How come of all these bands so far, only the Obits have ever heard of a minor key?

Polvo – Beggar’s Bowl. Now this kicks ass! Hypnotic swirling intro, evil growling leads, a stomping rhythm section and then some eerie slightly Middle Eastern flourishes. And how about that flameout at the end, damn! Were these guys the best guitar band of the 90s or what? Sounds nothing like New Order either. They’re at South St. Seaport on 7/31.

Ribbons – Inclusion. OK, back to the New Order wannabes, at least this has some passion and some percussive guitars. New Order play Television maybe.

School of Seven Bells – Face to Face on High Places. Arty, kinda 4AD, ornate synth giving way to trebly, minimal Bernard-style guitar, then the synth comes back. So unoriginal. At least they’re not ripping off Pearl Jam.

Slow Club – It Doesn’t Have to Be Beautiful. Rich white kids with a drum machine taking a pitiful stab at bluegrass. Barf.

Superchunk – Misfits and Mistakes. Yawn, booooring. Strictly for 35-and-overs who miss hearing this garbage at college parties in the 90s.

Versus – Eskimo. Not their best song (Fontaine wrote most of their real good ones) – this is just a simple poppy riff over and over again until suddenly the eeriness kicks in. But then it’s gone. Fast forward…

The Wave Pictures – Just Like a Drummer. Oh jeeeezus…a 30-year-old guy singing like he’s 13. And he uses the word “hipster” in a way that might not be a slur. Puke. Next…

Zaza – Sooner or Later. OK, back to the New Order…or maybe Clan of Xymox. This is nice – swoopy, minor-key synth, incisive electric piano and now a little rhythm guitar.      

 

So here’s what you get for free (download it here for the next week): three solid hits, a bunch of ok-to-good stuff and only three real duds. Plus you can dance to most of this. Burn the best of this for your kid sister to help wean her off the Jonas Bros.

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment