‘the forgotten time’, a delicate piano line under a layer of oscillating synth sounds segues into the insistent driving of ‘maybe you will find me’, which in turn morphs into ‘we walk long distances through silent sleep’, a seven minute combination of mellow, rolling piano and hazy interference, before ‘you can still be beautiful’ surprises with the inclusion of a soft vocal – and I find myself intrigued by the images which prompted this release, four photographs by Heidi Kuisma (who, the internet informs me, is a Finnish born photographer now resident in Glasgow).
They’re not included in the digital download, which is a shame, but raking about in Google Images throws up the photo of a branch at the top of this post and this one and I can’t help wonder which photo links to which track…
It’s a bit of a strange concept – an album of songs based on a single episode of the tv series Doctor Who, and not even the modern wildly successful show, but the old one from the 1980s. But hey, I love 20th century Doctor Who, so I’m not seriously complaining on that score.
The story it’s based on – The Caves of Androzani – is a bit of an acknowledged classic, famous in equal parts for marking the death of one incarnation of the Doctor and for one scheming characters asides direct to camera. In Doctor Who terms it’s both pretty grim and pretty layered and even poetic. so there’s plenty of scope for The Sevateem (another Doctor Who reference) to stretch themeselves creatively.
That they don’t really do so isn’t entirely their fault, though. Part of the problem is that they very literally try to tell the story from television – and while a ballet dancer in a black and white face mask is a striking visual image, it loses something when you have to actually say the description out loud.
Maybe the album is a bit too ambitious for its own good, in fact. It starts very strongly with ‘Anywhere in the Universe’ which, vocally and musically at least, is reminsiscent of something damn good by Ladytron, but the fact that the band employ a variety of different vocalists means that this height is only occasionally matched elsewhere. Styles too change a bit too often so that three tracks in we get the slightly lumpen school disco beat of ‘You Work for Me’ where more tracks along the same lines as the opener would have been far more welcome. Sometimes ‘just like the last one’ is a legitimate approach.
The album’s like that throughout, in fact – a series of highs and lows, often in close proximity to one another: ‘Pay for this’, a just about adequate stab at Pet Shop Boys style 80s pop, is followed by the far superior ‘Is it Wrong?’ and so on. Basically if (I assume) Janey Winterbauer is singing, then it’s one of the better tracks.
To be clear thugh, there’s nothing awful and much which is excellent – and proceeds go to ‘Doctors without Frontiers’, and there’s enough good stuff on here to make it more than worth a fiver of anyone’s money.
If you only listen to one track, listen to this:
Available as a digital download: https://thesevateem.bandcamp.com
It’s an interesting idea – record unrehearsed piano pieces direct to the Voice Memo software that comes with an iPhone, then allow a second artist to make such additions as they see fit afterwards. It’s also an approach which leaves itself open to claims of ‘flippancy’, a notion rightly rejected by label Crow Versus Crow, who say the recordings are “considered, concentrated distillations of reflected emotional experience, precise and lyrical.”
Which they are. Short, one and two minute pieces by Euan Alexander Millar-McMeeken aka glacis, contemplative but never slow, introspective but completely accessible, across which Fraser McGowan of Caught in the Wake Forever pastes and interweaves snippets of sound, abrading the edges of the piano with domestic backgrounds and the muted refrain of repetitive mechanics and misfiring electronics. The additions range from mere hints of rough interference to distinct instrumentation given equal weight to Euan’s piano, but in every case the collaboration works to create something greater than the individual elements.
If you only listen to one track, listen to this:
Available on digital download and as a limited edition cassette.
I can’t remember how on earth I first heard this, or where. Not on bandcamp, because I was pleasantly surprised to find a bandcamp download voucher in with the vinyl release when it arrived, Wherever it was, thank God I did, because this is a truly astonishing record.
I’ve also no idea what Ms Coltrane et al are actually singing – presumably some Krishna chants and the like, but it doesn’t really matter. The combination of, by turns droning and soaring, keyboards, sitar and understated percussion, nestled beneath a series of different …well, yes, ecstatic, voices, is one which is designed to sweep you away.
There’s so much beauty and serenity in these tracks that’s it actually breath-taking at times, and me trying to describe them is a fool’s errand. Just go to the bandcamp page and listen to ‘Om Shanti’. You wont regret it.
Summons of Shining Ruin is Shinobu Nemotu, an ambient composer for whom the word ‘prolific’ was almost certainly coined. With hundreds of pieces released on a multitude of labels, it’s tricky to pick a favourite, but this was the very first work of his I heard, and I still play it a lot.
It’s called ‘Installed Teleportation Machine’ but for me its combination of tape loops and found sounds should be the soundtrack to a video tour round one of those abandoned cities you read about on the internet – empty tower blocks with trees growing out the windows and car show rooms full of orange and brown 1970s cars.
Sonically, it’s like a more accessible William Basinski, or the contemplative parts of the last Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, but with a gentle, melancholy feel to it which I hear in all of Nemotu’s work.
If you only listen to one track, listen to this one: