Articles by " Zen Tapes"
Beowulf‘s take on chamber music is both familiar and subtly bold, a perfect combination for easy listens that hold their own upon the scrutiny of closer examination. Perhaps a pivotal aspect of his subtle mastery is the inclusion of contemporary effects that compliment his typically classical instrumentation splendidly. Known to friends and family as Daniel Goldblum, Beowulf effortlessly moves from obscure Schoenberg-esque moments to romantic, fulfilling passages, in motion as effortless as a growing smile or a deep breath.
His narratives are often accompanied by a shining string quartet yet, the most compelling aspect of the young Ann Arbor composer’s work is his own magnificent bassoon playing. Smooth and full, Goldblum’s tone is captivatingly expressive in melody, yet deep and expansive when placed in the background.
Very recently, Beowulf has released recordings of his music to the public for the first time. “Silent Sister” is my favorite. Download “Silent Sister” and its counterpart, “The Sea Also Floats” on Live From Kerrytown from Beowulf‘s Bandcamp and take an engrossing listen below.
Here’s more on “Silent Sister” from Daniel himself:
“Silent Sister” is my second piece combining amplified bassoon with analog effects and string quartet. I use a delay pedal and a Whammy harmonizer to alter my sound as I play, as well as a loop station to reproduce two prerecorded bassoon loops with immediacy. But the string quartet is all natural, just how I like it; working with it allows me to blend the broad string palette with my own electroacoustic wind voice, in order to hopefully form a potent extraclassical hybrid.
The title is an allusion to a symbol from Thomas Mann’s ‘The Magic Mountain,’ having to do with abstracting one’s perception of time and other fun stuff like that.
This performance (on 4/17/13 at Kerrytown Concert House) was the premiere and it was part of my degree recital.
Since I first posted Samn Johnson‘s music on PORTALS, his canon has gradually evolved. Many mainstays of the young Ann Arborite’s classical-informed epics remain, whether they be a melding of electronic elements and live strings, an orchestral approach to composition, or persistent excursions in cerebral themes informed by musique concrète, yet his newest release finds him in a state of comfortable self-awareness—a maturity that shines through the entirety of Epistulae Hieme.
Most notably, where Samn’s past efforts were often veiled in a dark, melancholy tone, Epistulae Hieme consists of a full palate of rich colors, varied in both intensity and age. His willingness to infuse contemporary percussive elements, such as the triplet kick drum pattern in album opener “Bäume im Herbst,” is nicely coupled with curious clicks and aesthetically organic samples. The combination of Samn’s background in classical music composition and his willingness to experiment leaves me with an unshakable liking to exploring an endless labrynth of pixelated wooden doors in the PC game Titanic: Adventure Out of Time.
But what really makes Epistulae feel special to me is Samn’s use of reoccurring melody and tone which allow the work to be a catalyst for complex thoughts upon familiarity and memory. Take a full listen to Epistulae Hieme below, and perhaps you’ll see what I mean.
Here are some thoughts on the release from Samn himself.
I started work on ‘Epistulae Hieme’ in early 2011. Many of the tracks which made their way onto this album were intended to be part of my first album, ‘Variations,’ which is essentially a compilation of remixes. At some point I made up my mind to remove the tracks that don’t use sampling from ‘Variations’ and expand them into a separate album, and thus ‘Epistulae Hieme’ was born. I came up with the name (which means “letters from winter” in Latin) when I was under the optimistic delusion that I would finish the work during the winter of 2011-12. It ended up taking me over a year longer to finish it. However, this title continued to inform my ideas about the structure of the album. I gradually became aware of a metaphor that each piece is like a letter—a brief summary of an experience, or an idea that I am trying describe and express. This album was my diary for the last two years and served as both a source for new ideas and a place to record them. I’ve come to view the album as a personal document more than anything else, a reaction which inspired my cover art, essentially a series of “notes to self,” or phrases that I have often caught myself repeating in my mind. I tend to avoid lyrics because they feel exhibitionist and vulnerable, so this cover art is a bit nerve-wracking for me to release. However, I think a collection of handwritten personal thoughts fits the epistolary nature of this work and is a good visual accompaniment.
I think that working on this for so long caused me to lose sight of any overarching concept or narrative, and it is simply a record of my music making activity over the last couple years. The melodies that run throughout may create an illusion of central planning, but were actually an afterthought. Towards the end of the process I became concerned that it was too incoherent and fragmentary, which caused me to rewrite many of the songs so that they would include common themes.
There is a quote by the philosopher Merleau-Ponty which goes something like, “my own thoughts take me by surprise and teach me what I think.” This aptly describes how I feel about this album. I am sometimes astonished by how electronic and beat-dominated it is, and I don’t particularly remember deciding to make it that way. For many years I only wrote acoustic classical music, then started making ambient music, then somehow ended up here. This music certainly contains elements of classical music, but there is no denying that it is a departure. During the time I was working on this I was hardly aware of exerting changes on my style, and have only recently realized that I stumbled onto something different.
Combining throttling analog synths, 80′s hair metal rifs, and blazed out hip-hop, Gunge is surprisingly cohesive. Not unlike many of his AMDISCS counterparts, he strokes through a syrupy sea of visibly retro influences, but he is able to make a nasty-piece-of-pizza-on-a-tab-of-acid collage-y of a vibe into nothing short of a pleasant excursion. While there are obviously tongue-in-cheek aspects to “$WIMMIN-IN-MONEY”, what is most alluring to me is Gunge‘s raw attitude—I imagine this track being forged with a curled lip and a deadpan stare.
And what a better way to dive into “$WIMMIN-IN-MONEY” than a constant flow of beach and ass, sun-baked in a playful, rippling pastel sheen? Fall off the deep end with the video below and download the single for free via via AMDISCS.
Veered afar from the M|O|D collective’s trap-heavy roots, C.Z.‘s debut full-length finds him deeply submerged in a unique sound that sets him apart from the typical palate of his Boston counterparts. It’s a smooth blend of funky dance, Lego Island (the PC game), and a debilitating rip from a water pipe.
Bathtub feels natural and effortless, perhaps evidence of C.Z.‘s penchant for experimentation on past M|O|D compilations. Still possessing an undeniable rawness, the young producer, also known as Cody Zinser, is notably patient, focused on gradually developing simple, yet beautiful melodies atop playful rhythms. His recent loosely aquatic excursion kind of reminds me of New Age in a weird way but without so much epic soloing or spiritual pan flute. Maybe it’s his frequenting of heady digital pads, apparent attention to texture, or persistent use of airy reverb—maybe that’s too far a stretch. Regardless, you don’t have to be into New Age at all to fall deep into C.Z.‘s comfortable allure.
Give Bathtub a full listen below and download it from M|O|D:
Magical Mistakes is constantly refining his craft—using found sounds that brim with character, enchantingly rich analog textures, and near-perfect accidents (magical even) to create lush, sub bass-laden soundscapes that I want to live and die within. His latest, “You Can Hear Your Heart Beat” is notably vulnerable and visceral—two feelings that remind me yet again of why I fell in love with Erik Leub’s Japan-based bedroom project at first listen.
Beginning with an inner-gazing NPR vocal sample, the gentle build of Jake Falby’s violin (a frequent MM collaborator) amidst tantalizing clicks and ‘household’ noises results in an incredibly subtle, yet rewarding resolve—the sound of Erik gently whispering “it’s you, it’s you, it’s you.” And considering that his beautiful, soft spoken voice is not only one of my favorite aspects of Magical Mistakes, but also a rarity, “You Can Hear Your Heart Beat ” is an exceptional treat.
Stream and download the track, and join me in eager anticipation of Magical Mistakes‘ upcoming (yet unannounced) EP.
Here’s a candid perspective from Erik himself:
A series of songs I developed for an as yet unrealized EP, this one “You Can Hear Your Heart Beat”, remains one of my favorites. Sometimes I’m not sure how deep I can take my tunes without coming off as melodramatic. I want to make beautiful music that still has some degree of maturity. So hopefully I’m not getting too far in the emotional deep end with this one.
The sample is from Barry Lopez. I was riding my bike at night listening to this guy on Fresh Air. He was talking about getting molested and doing some readings on the therapeutic value of nature. I knew I wanted to sample it for something. So I threw it in here.
Violin samples originally provided by Jake Falby. And the vocal snippet is by Brandy (I think!), of all people. The rest of the audio is samples I made. There are some very big sine wave subs that wont kick in til about 60 hertz. If you don’t have a subwoofer or really nice headphones you probably wont hear it. Actually, if you have a Toyota Prius (you gotta turn off the automatic limiter/condenser thing in the stock settings–that thing will ruin all your music), it’ll probably sound pretty cool.