Barbara Morgenstern’s Sweet Silence

I am so glad to have discovered this amazing LP from Barbara Morgenstern.  I first discovered Barbara’s beautiful songwriting from her collaboration with Robert Lippok in Tesri.  In other words, it is for the love to sophisticated electronic music that I found her.  Moving on to the topic at hand, I am very impressed by Sweet Silence.  In short, it is the combination of incredible synth work underneath Morgenstern’s incantations that  does it for me.

Sweet Silence is the opening track.  Featuring stuttering sine waves, dramatic portamento sawtooths, simple, textured percussion, sustaining pad organs, and the words of Morgenstern – confidently charging forward to the rhythm of the electronics, echoing and haunting, as she tells of life’s most precious moments.

A very pleasing tempo change onto the 2nd track, Need to Hang Around, a faster tune.  Again we have this amazing portamento that slingshots from one note to the next in a very cool rhythm.  The lyrics seem to speak to the idea that love in the moment can hold you down, and hold you back from exercising your inner creativity.  “In the past three weeks I could have written tons of number one hits, but I was sick.  I could have experienced the very peak of my creativity, but I was too dizzy.”  Sweet arpeggios accompany the chorus along with the rubberband synth work as I’d like to call it.  The intensity builds as the resonance rises on the arpeggios.  This is an amazing tune.

Keeping up with the high bar clearly established by the first two tracks, Kookoo delivers a symphony of sophisticated feelings.  The sharp, reverberating synth stabs are one of the most amazing parts on the entire album in my opinion.  The lyrics seem to almost be about the sound itself: “Move to that song, round and round, it’s your dance.  This lonely tune could play for me too, just by chance.”  It is so beautiful.  In the background we hear the glitchy stuttering of “Koo-koo..” around and around, as if part of some Pagan chant, or a ritual in the cold Autumn forests of Germany.  This is probably my top pick from this LP.

Out on the Highway is another one of my favorites.  It has the most beautiful synth work.  And Morgenstern’s sweet words are so soothing.   There’s also an orchestral quality to this tune that creates a journey, and a story.  It’s actually a bit tricky to describe.

The last tune that I can’t help but to write about is Night-time Falls.  This is a very catchy tune, and probably quite suitable for a dance floor in Berlin.  Probably not in the U.S., however, as I don’t think Americans really share the same appreciation for this kind of sound, though I could be wrong.  This song seems to be about the honesty of true love.  She talks about spending the night with a promoter, but feeling nothing and wanting to go back home to her true love. “There’s no lies between us”.  Hearing this sweet love song with the synthesizer work is tear-jerking.  It makes me tingle.  There is this one bass synthesizer that reminds me of Cindy Lauper’s Time After Time, and the way it interfaces with the dancey beat and Morgenstern’s storytelling is so incredibly beautiful.

Please buy this record.  Especially if you love sweet, sophisticated German electronic music like me.  This music is not trying to be cool, but rather trying to establish itself as what will likely be considered as a timeless classic for decades to come, I predict.

Favorite Ambient Albums

I have been meaning to post something about the ambient music that I love for a while now. So, below is a short, meandering description of five of my favorite ambient LPs. I feel very drawn to this sort of music. I just hope that some person somewhere in the world will discover this blog post and it will provide a similar experience for them as it does for me.

Shuttle 358 – Understanding Wildlife

Clicks, thumps, pretty sounds all swirling together. Sunlight is definitely present here. It’s not a darker mood at all, but rather an exploration of the simple pleasures in life. The beauty of one’s backyard, the early morning light, the late afternoon lull as orange enters the room on a Sunday. The soporific tones of nap time after a long morning of working in the yard. “Rubber Clock” sets a very extraordinary mood, for me, in particular. The thump of the percussion in this track is very hypnotic. Pretty notes also exist on this record, which distinguishes it as a bright color such as yellow. This album could be classified as cinematic, and works well as a waking up record and also seems fitting for getting work done.

Donnacha Costello – Together is the New Alone

This is by far my favorite record to come from the now expired label known as Mille Plateaux. There are rumors on the web that it was created with samples of an acoustic guitar, which I would love to believe. I have the vinyl and on the back is says it was “recorded while Dublin slept”. This album is very slow. It makes very good use of the shortest sounds possible. Clicks and sticks and stabs and static and fuzz have never sounded so warm. The pad sounds here are irresistibly sleep-inducing. It’s a very sad record, in my opinion. These tracks have the power to change the mood in a room dramatically. It’s the type of record that one feels most comfortable keeping to one’s self out of suspicion that a regular person might make a very ugly remark like, “Can you please play something a little more up-beat”. Although, I do admit, I have played this record on several occasions to show off my sophisticated tastes in the finer offerings from this world’s most talented electronic musicians.

Signer – Low Light Dreams

What a perfect title for this album. I would definitely loop it in with Together is the New Alone in terms of the mood that it establishes in a room. In my opinion one of the main differences is that the sounds in this album are more sustained and textured, windy even. It clears the air. Yes, definitely an airy feeling to many of these tracks. Although here you also have subtle elements of 4/4 techno, but in a subdued atmosphere that you can still sleep to. There are strings present, and also vocals. “Interior Dub” is one of the highlights of the album, in my opinion. In it you can hear the hauntingly prophetic echoes of Signer’s voice, which simply must be heard without any further description. This album is one of my all-time favorite late night listens.

Mitchell Akiyama – Temporary Music

Temporary Music is ambient music at the core but is also noteworthy for its glitchiness. Each track is extremely hand-crafted to create an abstract landscape of lines, vectors, colliding polygons, confusion, static, inertia, time-travel, and all other kinds of feelings, for me. “Big Sur” and “Thaw” are my two favorite compositions from this record. The opening sounds in “Big Sur” haunt me while I lose consciousness in the night. The timbre of these sounds is unmatched in terms of the haunt. There’s a sharp attack on them but it still sounds so soft. It’s very tribal, for me. The rhythms on this album are incredible. It’s definitely a darker album as well. More abrasive than Donnacha Costello and Signer, but also more crowded. It’s probably a little harder to fall asleep to this album, so I recommend it more for working and for thinking than as sleep accompaniment.

Biosphere – Substrata

This is hand down one of the greatest achievements by man in creating a total, visceral audio experience. The landscapes created in this album are perilous. Icy Norwegian peaks, frigid caves, screeching wind, places you’ve never been but with a picture that seems so clear in your mind. It’s a marvel of audio-visual imagination. You feel like you’re there and you know what it looks like, but you’re unsure as to why it feels so good, despite the harsh conditions. This album is probably the reason I decided to pursue ambient listening as a hobby. One of the first times I feel asleep to this album I woke up in the middle of “The Things I Tell You”. There is a frequency in this track that occurs just before the vocal sample, and it is as if the track was designed to wake you up just for that sample, as if it couldn’t be any more impressionable than at that moment, where it literally penetrates your subconsciousness and connects your mind with the music. This album is just incredible.

Ambient Landscapes

I put this mix together in Ableton Live with the idea that it would be good thinking music, or music for getting work done. This mix has been downloaded a few dozen times on SoundCloud so I figured I’d submit it here as well. I like ambient style music because it’s not busy. I really appreciate the way ambient music requires patience from the listener. It’s not an instant-gratification style at all. There are longer spaces and increased separation between the elements, droning rhythms, colder sounds that echo to bring out the vast distance created by the sounds. Something about this kind of music really does it for me. I hope you like it as well. Just click the Download arrow on the player and throw it into your iTunes.

The Language of Light pt 2

This new video of mine is a tribute to the magic of sunlight and its mysterious language. Nearly all of images in which light is the subject were recorded in my apartment after work during the early evening. My apartment is special in that way, because of the glorious warm light that comes in between the branches of my neighbors redwood tree, through my window, and dances along my walls. I believe that there are messages inside the movement of the light, as if it’s telling a story or singing a song.

I recorded the music for this video in Ableton Live. I chose chimes with delay and reverb because I felt it went well with the bokeh-like effect of the light artifacts. I’m using an acoustic guitar for several other layers of the tune as well, and the synth stabs are Reason. TR-808 drum machine with triplet timing. Thanks for clicking!