Quick Review: “When You Take Off Your Shoes”, by Nathan Shubert

The musical recipe developed by the Canadian musician Nathan Shubert is relatively simple but certainly effective. We have sketches of melancholic melodies or simple loops of notes played on a prepared piano, a background layer consisting of field recordings and other noises, and, more sporadically, delicate touches of strings and clarinet. Basically, it’s the typical structure of every modern electroacoustic song. Despite that, however, the album When You Take Off Your Shoes still manages to stand out from the mass of singles, EPs and LPs that are released on every week.

“When You Take Off Your Shoes “, album trailer

There are many different aspects that I enjoyed of this record. The first thing that impressed me has been the overall sense of delicacy and moderation that distinguishes the music composed by Shubert. There are no moments of particular tension or exciting progressions. On the contrary, the music of When You Take Off Your Shoes is always discrete, somehow peaceful, but at the same time without never becoming excessively flat or monotonous. Another good feature of the LP is that it’s possible to appreciate quite a relevant diversity among the various pieces of the album, which gives a certain dynamism to the listening experience.

From a thematic point of view, the compositions of this LP aim to represent the relationship between the universal sound of an instrument such as the piano, and the contemporary environment that surrounds it. This is the conceptual meaning of the field recordingsm, the subtle noises and the samples that we find in most of the pieces. These, to be honest, are balanced so well that they are never excessive or too much distracting.


Stylistically, Shubert’s music is clearly inspired by authors such as Nils Frahm and Chilly Gonzales, but still maintaining its own uniqueness.

My overall rating for this album is 6.5/10. This may be the perfect background for many different moments of your day: it will never require all of your attention but it will provide you with an elegant and absolutely enjoyable atmosphere.

Among the favourite songs I can mention the title track When You Take Off Your Shoes, but also A Beacon A Pulse and the delicate Lappeenranta.


The album is available on Bandcamp and it can be streamed also from Spotify.


Songs from Subert’s new album are now featured in many of the playlists I’m curating on Spotify: you can find them in The ELECTROACOUSTIC Radar (best of electro-acoustic music in 2019) but also in SOUNDSCAPES (best of Ambient music) and TRANQUILLITY (the 100 best modern classical, ambient and electroacoustic songs of the last few years). Enjoy!


MUSIC WITHOUT WORDS, the best Meditative Albums of 2018 / Episode 1 (February 2018)

Meditative music includes in general a family of extremely heterogeneous styles spanning from electronic ambient music to sophisticated chamber ensembles, from ballet scores to minimal piano pieces. The list of the best five albums released in the first two months of 2018, however, seems to be focused on only two particular genres of music: electro-acoustic and dark ambient. We’re missing, in particular, those modern-classical piano music albums that have been so successful in the last few years among the general public. But in the meantime that we wait for the inevitable wave of neo-classical records, let’s enjoy for the time bieng these more experimental, reflective and, to some extent, obscure albums.

The usual recommendation for who arrived here via a search engine: you may want to check if this is the most recent edition of the chart for meditative music, you can easily browse and check it from the specific section of the blog. This list is the first one released in 2018 for meditative music and it refers to the first two months of the year. Enjoy!

 


 

#1) ALL MELODY by Nils Frahm

(Electro-acoustic, Modern Classical)

Nils Frahm - 1300.jpg

ALL MELODY, the last album by German composer Nils Frahm is full of pure and rarefied musical lines that slowly and gently emerge from the white noise that surrounds us.  The LP is characterized by very slow rhythms and an extremely minimal approach to composition. The typical elements of Frahm’s music, which are the combination of analog and digital instruments and the perfect fusion of electronic and modern classical styles, are all present, but the architecture of this work is so bare and essential in this album as we didn’t hear for long his discography. The sounds that come from the album are warm, soft, absolutely engaging. The artist has used a large number of different keyboard instruments, a few of them generated synthetically, and in global terms we observe here a progressive distancing from the simple piano – which has been for long at the heart of Frahm’s music – to embrace an extremely wider and articulated palette of sounds. The picture is then completed with the nice and original introduction of choirs and wind instruments. The full review is available here.


 

#2) MILES TO MIDNIGHT by Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast and God Body Disconnect

(Dark Ambient, Dark Jazz, Field Recordings)

minutes to midnight

Miles to Midnight is the result of the collaboration among three important representatives of modern music: Atrium Carceri, which is the musical project created by the Swedish composer Simon Heat, who’s also the founder of the music label Cryo Chamber; Cities Last Broadcast, which is one of the many names under which Swedish artist Pär Boström composes and releases is music; God Body Disconnect, the ambient music project created by American artists Bruce Moallem, who arrived to ambient music after an initial career as a drummer in a brutal death metal band. The eight songs of the LP offer the listener with a special version of dark and melodic ambient, which is developed over an infrastructure of drones, orchestral elements and field recordings that generate beautiful, fascinating but also intricate and thick soundscapes. The general atmosphere is obscure, the main emotion that is felt is something like anguish. But the effect is so intense that it becomes an incredible experience, something that one wants to repeat, again and again. The full review is available here.


 

#3) RESOLVE by Poppy Ackroyd

(Electro-acoustic)

Poppy Akroyd - 1300

British composer and musician Poppy Ackryod has gained in recent years a certain popularity in the world of electro-acoustic and experimental music, both as the author of a couple of solid and precious solo albums and as a member of the Hidden Orchestra (a musical project that released last year another great record). Ackroyd’s music was initially characterized by the rigid choice to compose her songs through the digital processing of only two instruments: piano and violin. During the years the sonic range of her compositions has gradually grown, and in her latest album, Resolve, we may appreciate the contribution of other instruments and also a few guest artists. Violin and piano remain at the center of the music, but there are now additional elements that expand the dynamics of the songs. Stylistically speaking, the melodies used by Ackroyd  in the new album are those typical of electro-acoustic music, in this case extremely linear and accessible by a mainstream audience. The technical performance is ok, the atmospheres are pleasant and convey an enjoyable sense of intimacy, but the songs sometime lack the level of intensity and depth that could have give more power to the album.


 

#4) AD ASTRA by Awali

(Electro-acoustic, Modern Classical)

Awali 1300

Ad Astra is the fifth release from the the Czech artist Tamara Shmidt and her interesting musical project Awali. The music created by this Awali is an enjoyable combination of ambient, electronic and classical music, above which we can occasionally appreciate the beauty of her sensual and delicate voice. The songs of the album develop on rarefied atmospheres and extremely slow rhythms, and the album may be an excellent background for moments of calm and reflection.


 

#5) UR DJUPAN DAL by Atrium Carceri & Herbst9

(Dark Ambient, Ritual Ambient)

atrium herbst9 1300.jpg

One can only express appreciation for a musician like Simon Heat, the multifaceted artist who works behind the pseudonym of Atrium Carceri, for the passion with which he carries on his own vision of dark ambient music and, at the same time, has the energy and the dedication to continually look for new inspirations through the collaborations with other masters of electronic and ambient music. And in the space of just two months, we find him contributin to this chart with two different works: the beautiful collaborative album Miles to Midnight (whith God Body Disconnect and Cities Last Broadcast) and this second record, Ur Djupan Dal, written and recorded together with Herbst9, which is one of the various ambient projects founded by a duo of German  veterans of electronic music like Henry Emich and Frank Merten. When compared to Miles to MidnightUr Djupan Dal doesn’t feature the same oppressive soundscapes and gloomy atmosphere but rather musical stratifications that proceed like soundwaves in a sea of silence. This is not a simple album to absorb, but it contains however a number of interesting elements that emerge slowly and that require a certain number of repeated listens to be appreciated in full.


 

If you enjoyed this chart, you could be interested to see which were the best modern classical and meditative albums of the last year.

 


 

Best New Music: MILES TO MIDNIGHT by Atrium Carceri, Cities Last Broadcast and God Body Disconnect

Sometimes, when you start listening to a new album, it may happen that the music you hear is so interesting and original that you find yourself completely enthralled by the music and you’re magically transported into another parallel dimension. Last day I was working on a document on my computer, with the music from this new album Miles to Midnight playing in my headphones. All of a sudden I found myself in another strange place, I literally felt like walking in an unknown territory, in a dark and impenetrable fog and with a pulsating rhythm coming from the distace. This was the effect generated on me on the first time I listened to this incredible and mesmerizing album.

Beyond the description of my transcendental experience, it’s not easy to explain in a few words the what’s inside this LP. On the bandcamp page where you can get the album, the music of Miles to Midnight is presented as “Dark Noir Jazz Ambient”, but in my opinion even this quite complex characterization still doesn’t manage to express the true essence of the music. Let’s try to say that the eight songs of the LP offer the listener with a special version of dark and melodic ambient, which is developed over an infrastructure of drones, orchestral elements and field recordings that generate beautiful, fascinating but also intricate and thick soundscapes. The general atmosphere is obscure, the main emotion that is felt is something like anguish. But the effect is so intense that it becomes an incredible experience, something that one wants to repeat, again and again. In spite of the particular style of music, in fact, the album is not annoying or boring. Indeed, it’s quite the opposite.

Miles to Midnight is the result of the collaboration among three important representatives of modern music.

Atrium Carceri is the musical project created by the Swedish composer Simon Heat, who’s also the founder of the music label Cryo Chamber, the one which produced the album. Heat is specialised in dark ambient music and in addition to the records he produces as a soloist under the moniker of Atrium Carceri, we find him involved in many other collaborations and in other musical groups. The role of Simon Heat in the composition of the songs of the album is evident: the main characteristics of Atrium Carceri’s music are in fact the main constituting element of Miles to Midnight: slow rhythms and desolate atmospheres.

Cities Last Broadcast refers to another Swedish artist, Pär Boström, who composes ambient music under a number of different names (principally Kammarheit, Cities Last Broadcast and Hymnambulae). We are in front of another artist who’s particularly focused with the representation of abstract and disquieting worlds. In addition to his musical activity, in fact, he’s particularly appreciated as illustrator and painter, and his works often deal with the same subjects that we find translated into music within his musical projects.

God Body Disconnect is the only musical project of this trio which is based outside Sweden. Bruce Moallem, the artist behind this work, is based in the U.S. and he arrived to ambient music after an initial career as a drummer in a brutal death metal band named Dripping, which was active for a few years between 1999 and 2001. If the main themes of the musical exploration of God Body Disconnect are typically the same as the other two projects that we have just mentioned, the music composed by Bruce Moallem as a solo is often enriched by the presence of a narrative voice, which we can’t find however in Miles to Midnight.

Listening to this record is not easy – if not for expert ears – to recognize the individual contributions of the three participating artists. And this is perhaps the best sign that this collaboration was really successful and that every one of the three musicians was in condition to contribute to the creation of something new and absolutely original.

In summary, it’s clear that Miles to Midnight is not a record that you can play when you have some friends at dinner, or early in the morning as you prepare to go out, unless you have really special tastes. But there are many other moments in our days in which it can be pleasant and liberating to abandon the reality that we face in our daily routines and be transported into a dark and mysterious world like the one created by these three artists.