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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

In These Murky Waters - In These Murky Waters

Mattias Olsson is always making my ears challenging by going beyond the progressive genre. But he is taking it a step further. Whether its Pixie Ninja, Weserbergland, or Molesome, he wants to go beyond the silence as far as he can go. This year, he’s challenging me even more with this new duo called In These Murky Waters. They’ve released their sole self-titled debut album on the Apollon label. It considers alongside Mattias on keyboards, but Ewik Rodell on Lead Vocals.

According to their bandcamp website, Erik was looking for someone who can create these new sounds for a concept album. She found Mattias through mutual friends as they talked about what ideas that Mattias can come up with. On the album, he uses the Mellotron, Chamberlin, Optigan (Steve Hackett used that instrument for the closing track, Sentimental Institution from his fourth studio album, Defector in 1980), and the Orchestron.

So it is quite an adventure for Mattias to use those four keyboards to create this eerie atmosphere at times with different story structures by creating these abstract illustrations to set up the scenes inside your head. Part of the music is like something out of the French duo Air’s sessions for Sofia Coppola’s 1999 film debut, The Virgin Suicides.

Listening to Ewik’s vocals, she resembles three artists; Siouxsie Sioux, The Cure’s Robert Smith, and the late great Nico. She has this touch that I can imagine that all three of them have given her the torch’s to make sure to keep their legacy going by making sure their flames don’t burn out.

Memories are Tape sounds like an old recording from a 1930s record when you hear it from both the Optigan and the Mellotron while Ewik’s soothing vocals set up the moment in their lives as if raindrops has come down by giving them a warm feeling inside their hearts. We Came from the Ocean has this post-punk/new wave approach by creating this combination between Joy Division and Bauhaus.

Elsewhere, Carnival feels like a dystopian view of what was supposed to be the Greatest Show on Earth, turns into the Circus from Hell due to its nightmarish landscapes, dangerous stunts, and hallucinating formats of Ewik becoming the master of ceremonies on what you’re about to experience. Now mind you, this is not for the faint of heart while Mattias sets up the circus sounds as a waltz as you can hear paying tribute to Roxy Music, Yes, and The Beatles.

Adventures in Central Park has this mournful late ‘60s vibrate of The Electric Prunes’ Mass In F Minor as if transforms into one of Ewik’s lost letter to the Big Apple. It makes you feel right at home to revisit Central Park and being away from the big city and clear your head and start a brand new day.

Tears on a Green Sequined Dress has this trippy psych-hop by making you hit the dance floor while Rooms of Faded Photographs features these ‘50s sound of the Mellotron Cello as if Mattias was honoring the masters themselves of the THRAK-era of King Crimson.
In These Murky Waters might take a few listens. So whether you get it or not, it is a challenge. But what Ewik and Mattias have done is to bring the listener to be in the lion’s den with them and be a part of their parallel stories that are brought to life. And while I was inside the lion’s den, it shows that Mattias wanted to something that was beyond Anglagard and White Willow. And In These Murky Waters was one of them.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Mark Wingfield & Gary Husband - Tor & Vale

It’s been four years since I first listened to Mark Wingfield’s music after hearing to Proof of Light on the MoonJune label. He has worked with some of the most incredible musicians that’s he got to work with; Markus Reuter, Yaron Stavi, Asaf Sirkis, and one of my favorites, Kevin Kastning. This year, he’s partnered up with pianist Gary Husband with the release of Tor & Vale.

Also released on the MoonJune label, the album was recorded at a spacious studio called Casamurada which is located at a 12th century farmhouse in Catalonia, an hour outside of Barcelona, Spain. Husband not only plays the piano, but he’s also a drummer. He’s been performing since 1979 by playing with Allan Holdsworth, Cream’s Jack Bruce, Level 42, John McLaughlin, and Billy Cobham’s Spectrum.

Listening to Tor & Vale, is like going through your ECM records collection back in the mid ‘70s that you haven’t heard for a long time. With Wingfield’s soundscapes and Husband’s piano playing, it sets up these wandering horizons that awaits us to go beyond those mountains. The Golden Thread is Wingfield and Husband’s nod to the late great Duke Ellington.

Wingfield creates these arpeggiated melodies while Husband takes the “A” train with a little twist towards Bebop, Swing, and Balladry music. There are some eerie wonders that Gary does by setting up more of these concerto-like sequences for Mark to create these storyboards with a moody landscape as if he was writing his own take of Sibelius’ The Swan of Tuonela to create the darkness for the Night Song.

Both Shape of Light and Silver Sky sets up these exotic locations of a snowstorm by seeing our first glimpses of the sun that is finally getting away from the rain and thunders that have been going on. You could tell that Mark is channeling Terje Rypdal and Gary honoring Kevin Kastning as well. I just wished that Kevin appeared on both of these tracks so that he could lend both Gary and Mark a helping hand.

It would have made these tracks some of those wonderful moments for Kastning to bring out his 30-string contra-alto guitar to create some of the winds bursting through the storm on his instrument to create the intensity of the weather. Vaquita is a classical uprising to close Tor & Vale out.

There’s a wonderful nod that Gary does on Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto 1 in B-flat minor. Which I found to be very interesting for him to do that in a Jazz motif while Mark’s sun-setting melodies makes you want to get up and watch the sun go down by bringing to a standstill before the mood suddenly changes to a minimal sequence from Husband’s piano going from one area to another.

The album contains a 16-page booklet containing photos of Mark and Gary in the studio and outside during the making of Tor & Vale, and liner notes by Bill Milkowski as he does the interviews with them. Tor & Vale is a very interesting release that MoonJune Records have released.

It did take me about two listens of hearing this album from start to finish. And I have to say that this is a not so bad release, but pretty good album this year. And I hope to hear more from Wingfield for many years to come to see what ideas that his brain will come up with next.      

Charlie Cawood - Blurring into Motion

Charlie Cawood has made a name for himself. He’s more than just a bassist for Knifeworld, arranger for Mediaeval Baebes, but a multi-instrumentalist. Now while I was out of the limelight for those two months back in June and July, I knew that I had to come back down to Earth and be back on writing music again. But let’s get straight to Charlie’s new album. His follow up to 2017’s The Divine Abstract which took seven years to complete, Blurring into Motion was written in three months.

Released on the Bad Elephant Music label, Cawood continues by lending in more of the orchestra concepts with a little help from Iamthemorning’s Marjana Semkina as she sings on two of the tracks to lend Charlie a helping hand. The name of the album’s title came from Russell Hoban’s 1996 novel, Fremeder.

It talked about the moments that we have together by blurring the lines and the ideas and thoughts that we have, are coming full circle. And that’s what Blurring into Motion is about, coming together as one.

The music on here, sounds like it was recorded for one of the plays that I imagine Kavus Torabi had wrote for Cawood to write some of the arrangements for with no dialogue throughout the story from start to finish. But once Semkina’s vocals come in on the two tracks; Falling into Blue and Flicker out of Being. They come out of the blue as they’re this little section in the story where this character sings those two pieces as if Marjana portrays this down-and-out actress.

The actress was at the top of her game with success, but came crashing down really hard. It’s very much like an operatic section in the story where she comes in and sings about what she’s going through and the rough times that she had to deal with. And for Cawood to give Semkina a chance, it is a perfect combination to bring the worlds of Knifeworld and Iamthemorning to life.

There are some stronger elements to North Sea Radio Orchestra’s I a Moon in there. I can imagine Charlie is tipping his hat to Craig and Sharon Fortnam along with James Larcombe by honoring the band’s music of classical and chamber music to life.

I have to say that after the second listen, I wasn’t just impressed with the way the album was done, but how Cawood takes those two elements of music to a different approach with a small bit of Jazz thrown in the latter tracks. Blurring into Motion is Cawood’s answer to Disney’s Fantasia.