[Music] fuvk – you like blue and i like you

Z Tapes continues to put out wonderfully emotive indie music, whether it’s of the bedroom pop variety or something straight-up weird.  They rarely, if ever, seem to fail with their releases.  All credit should go to Filip Zemcik for his near-perfect curation abilities.

fuvk are a emo/indie-pop band out of Austin, Texas who please greatly with music that is pleasing to the ear, but not fluffy or boring.  The tape recordings were a bit unsettling to hear, and they add a bit of spark to an already good EP’s worth of tuneage.

[Music] Tindersticks – Across Six Leap Years

Some albums bear emotional scars of the artist and the listener equally well.  I cannot recommend Tindersticks highly enough if you are having a drink of vodka and lime and either reminiscing about a lost love or wondering how the hell you managed to land into the situation you’re currently in.  We need albums for wistful moments.  This one should be filed next to your Chet Baker and Joy Division albums when a profound case of the blues hit you.

Think of a baritone-voiced Nick Cave with a more whiskey-drenched voice singing with a Stax Records house band.  Dark, but full of soul.  Recommended.

[Music] Cloud – Live at Kulak’s Woodshed

Thanks to the wonders of Bandcamp, I am able to catch up on old friends’ bands from Los Angeles (like Tunnelmental, Farflung, The Secret Society of the Sonic Six), but it’s also quite pleasing to discover bands I missed out on.  Cloud have a vibe that is not dissimilar to bands like Galaxie 500 or Luna, but add a touch of Los Angeles to their work.  I’m not quite sure how I can qualify that, but growing up hearing so many bands in this area, there’s something in their music that makes it familiar.  I’m really enjoying this band.

[Music] Terre Battre – TB2

La Souterraine continue to be the best alternative music label out of France.  Each release is a treasure in and of itself, but the fact that they are free means that they should be accessible to anyone who has the time or opportunity to listen to them.  I would highly recommend downloading these files in the FLAC format, as the sounds tend to be so rich, but even a 320 kpbs mp3 file would suffice.\

Musically, Terre Battre’s instrumentation is sparse, harsh at times, but with vocals that straddle well between harsh and delicate.  French is a fine language to make pensive, moody music in.  The label continues to surprise and please me.

[Music] Ensemble – Envies D’Avalanches

This gem is from 2010. It boggles my mind that this gorgeous single escaped my grasp for so long, but I suppose I could say that about a host of reissued albums from all over the world. Not, however, from such a great work out of Montreal (though it seems band leader Olivier Alary is originally from Toulouse, France).

From Ensemble’s Bandcamp site:

‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is the first single to be taken from ‘Excerpts’, the stunning record from Montreal resident Olivier Alary, the songwriter/composer behind Ensemble. A middle ground between lush orchestration, absorbing pop, guitar-indie, experimental sonics and beyond, it offers no obvious or straightforward reference points, yet here is an album full of maturity, sophistication and romance, architectured carefully and atemporally. A loose comparison could be made with Kraftwerk’s unconventional, experimental adventures in pop music, or to the larger scale music of Matthew Herbert in its sublime eccentricity, or even to Yann Tiersen’s gentle nods to chanson française, but behind Alary’s musical charms is an overarching, unique personality that interweaves wide-ranging musical cultures and influences.

There is a dark, melancholic tension to ‘Envies D’Avalanches’: full of brushed percussion and swooping noise, eventually building into a densely textured controlled chaos via Alary’s gorgeous French-language vocals and the track’s initial acoustic guitar-fuelled foundations. Collaborator, the award-winning film/theatre composer Johannes Malfatti, can be heard in the thick, heavy piano chords and subtle harpsichord.

‘Envies D’Avalanches’ is backed with a gorgeous, lilting cover of UB40’s ‘Food For Thought’, their Brit-reggae condemnation of bloated western Christmas celebrations during the time of the Ethiopian famine. The track – led by album collaborator Darcy Conrai’s beautiful vocals – reinvents the dub rhythms of the original track as something far closer to the Ensemble school of songcrafting. The textures are deep and full, embraced by almost slow-motion saxophone melodies, spiky strummed zither and unobtrusive percussion, accordion and spectral drones.

A major theme of the full-length ‘Excerpts’ is the confusion of real memories with fictional ones, and this is no different for ‘Envies D’Avalanches’. Represented by traditional musical forms – the waltz and string quartets found elsewhere on the record – as well as experimental recording techniques (such as recording on cassette tape and degrading it with different tools) mixed with contemporary or standardised techniques, Alary’s illustration of a sense of fictional nostalgia can be felt across the album. It is at once enlightening, dizzying, tragic and beautiful.

Far closer to traditional songwriting or to film score composition than to a “studio project”, ‘Excerpts’ was recorded almost entirely using physical, acoustic instruments and objects (i.e. with no software or sampling). It was committed to tape in Montreal (a city, like the record, bilingual) and mixed in upstate New York and Berlin with Malfatti. ‘Food For Thought’ was recorded by Malfatti and Alary in their respective home studios in Berlin and Montreal.

Olivier was among the first artists to send music to FatCat Records at the label’s inception whilst living in London and working under the name ‘Hearing Is Our Concern’. Eventually retitling his project ‘Ensemble’, Olivier’s debut album ‘Sketch Proposals’ was released by Rephlex Records in 2000. By 2006, Ensemble had re-established his ties to FatCat, and, alongside the release of his beautiful self-titled album (featuring collaborations with Lou Barlow and Cat Power), co-written with Bjork on her ‘Medúlla’ album and contributed several remixes to Bjork singles. Olivier has also composed music for several exhibitions at the V&A museum; contributed to an Audio-Video installation by Doug Aitken at the Centre Georges Pompidou and at the MACBA in Barcelona; and received an honorary mention at the Ars Electronica Festival. Since 2007, he has also provided soundtrack for several feature-length films and documentaries, some of which have received prestigious awards and screenings in Europe, the US and China. His film work includes the score for the 2008 film ‘The Last Train Home’, directed by Lixin Fan, which recently received a Sundance screening.