Thomas Köner – La Barca

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Thomas Köner - La Barca

I’ve had this album for a couple of weeks now and I like it. I like it a lot in fact. I picked it up when it was listed as “Album Of The Week” at Boomkat (what album isn’t listed as an AOTW at the ever-effusive Boomkat?!) As I hadn’t seen much mention of the album in my online travels I thought I’d give it a review here.

For those unfamiliar with the name, Thomas Köner comes with great provenance having formed made up one half of Porter Ricks, a mainstay of Berlin’s Chain Reaction label, in the mid to late nineties. Other than a similar sense for both density and space, there is little about La Barca that betrays this DNA.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been listening to Brian Eno’s “Ambient 4: On Land” alot, but I’ve been hearing its influence all over music I’ve buying of late. For the most part this probably comes down to the current vogue for combing field recordings and treated acoustic instruments. La Barca is quite the case in point.

Thomas Köner - La Barca

Each of the 12 tracks is named for a GPS coordinate, which seems somehow spurious given that each recording wears its location on its sleeve by virtue of the inclusion of, and focus on, the human voice. The inclusion of the coordinate in the title of each piece actually further reinforces that this CD documents how we speak and how our location and environment affect not only how we sound but also what we hear. I was unable to resist looking up the location for a few of the track titles and can confirm that the recording locations correlate to the GPS coordinates! For all this locational tomfoolery one thing is certain – I am massively envious of Mr Köner’s travel itinerary.

Where La Barca really shines is in the interplay between the field recordings and instrumentation. Unlike similar experiments in this area, you don’t feel as if you’re listening to a collision of two disparate sound worlds. The field recordings flow in and out of the mix amidst a sea of reverb, whilst a bed of melancholic, suspended strings is never far away, knitting togther the whole. Occasionally, your ears are pricked as Köner takes an element of the natural world and subverts it with postprocessing. Then there’s the bass. This album has a lot of bass and that’s a good thing.

The bad news is that the album is limited to just 600 copies so snagging a copy may prove difficult. I wish you luck.

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Categories: Music, Reviews

Warp20 Box Set – Part 1

September 26, 2009 1 comment

So, it’s finally arrived. The Warp20 box set.

As I was unpacking it the first question from my step daughter didn’t concern what this marvelous object was, or how it had come to be in our house. No. She wanted to know how much it cost. To which I mumbled “about eighty pounds,” rounding the actual price down and failing to include postage. Things are a bit topsy turvy in our household.

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To the beast itself. The first thing you noticed upon picking it up is the sheer heft. Somehow appropriate, though, when you consider the weight of legacy Warp have created over the last 20 years. So what do you get for your, cough, eighty pounds? There’s 5 CDs covering the (Elemental), (Chosen) and (Recreated) compilations; 5 10″s, of which 2 contain lock grooves and 3 contain unreleased material from the vaults of Warp Towers; and, finally, a 192 page book containing the cover art of every release on the label.

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With the initial examination complete I immediately plumped for the (Recreated) set, which reprises the concept initially laid out in the 10+3 Remixes compilation that formed part of Warp’s tenth anniversary. The idea being that Warp (and related) artists chose a track from Warp’s sizable back catalogue and remix it.

Things get off to a bad start on the first disc with Born Ruffians making an attempt to combine Aphex Twin’s Milkman and To Cure A Weakling Child. Sadly, the childish humour of the original is lost due to a lyrical omission – it is not the milkman’s wife’s tits, per se, that are funny but more the fact that RDJ would like to drink milk from them! Jimi Tenor reprises his role as a 10+3 highlight with his rework of Japanese Electronics by Elektroids, which goes someway to making up for Born Ruffians. I can only assume that Maximo Park’s contribution is intended as a joke? With Born Ruffians and Maximo Park out of the way, Disc 1 is left free to continue unhindered. To my ears, Autechre, Luke Vibert and the lullaby-glitch of Guillermo Scott Herren’s Diamond Watch Wrists deliver the real gems.

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After Mark Pritchard’s almost reverent reinterpretation of 3/4 Heart at the start of disc 2, the time comes for Mira Calix, with the help of Oliver Coates, to return the favour that Boards Of Canada did for her all those years ago when they remixed Pin Skeeling. Her string and field recording laden interpretation of In A Beautiful Place In The Country is very special. I’m still not sure if I’ve forgiven Bibio for turning his back on the guitar-driven tape-tronica that he created prior to signing with Warp, so I’m reserving judgement on his recreation of Kaini Industries by Boards Of Canada for the time being….Oh go on then. It’s excellent! Leila chooses to take on the hyper kinetic drill and bass of Aphex Twin’s Vordhosbn using only an acoustic piano, in some ways echoing the solo piano pieces that featured in the hosting album, Druqks. Disc 2 closes with the welcome return of Seefeel, sadly minus the voice of original member Sarah Peacock, but sounding good nonetheless.

Part 2 to follow….

Categories: Music, Reviews

Tomorrows World meets the Moog Modular

September 24, 2009 2 comments

Synthtopia posted a link today to this very cute clip from Tomorrows  World. “The days of the one man band are back again…”

Categories: Music, Synthesizers

Aphex Twin and Hecker Live@Warp20 in Paris

September 24, 2009 2 comments

My how times have changed! Back in the dark ages of 2000 my friend Steve and I made the arduous journey to the Warp Lighthouse gig. Whilst a fantastic night was had by all, the night got off to a bad start due to the heavy handed door policy of confiscating any device capable of recording the proceedings! I’m still amazed that after surrendering my minidisc machine in exchange for a raffle ticket, that it was returned in one piece at the end of the event.

Luckily for you and I, such silliness has now been largely consigned to the distant past and so it is that we’re able to enjoy Aphex Twin and Tim Hecker’s performance at the Warp20 event in Paris that took place back in May of this year. The set is well worth the download if only to hear the mix between Adonis’ The Poke and all time Aphex classic IZ-US!

Get it here.

Categories: Music