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Cocooning

By Javier Blánquez

Cocooning Javier Blanquez Music to laze the day away. I won’t deny that these days are extremely lazy, full of inactivity and muscle relaxation, and, as that poet once said, of “reading in the shade, sticking your nose where the pearly female torsos are swaying.” They are days of sleeping until you can sleep no more, and of having an entire afternoon to watch “Lawrence of Arabia” if you haven’t yet (it’s not a set plan, but you know what I mean). It’s even hard to lift a finger, as the heat (and, above all, the accumulated tiredness from the year) has wasted your joints, the tendons decay, and the spirit asks, above all else, to recharge your batteries and live like a vegetable that only needs to be watered once a day. But, I confess, that in these recent days, it’s been impossible to return to the womb that we call vacation, to that pastoral arcadia of the golden age where men could still be one with nature and telepathically converse with dogs. Duty calls as new tasks siege the computer keyboard like the cloud of the crusade about to take San Juan de Acre. They cast looks of disapproval if they are not given the proper attention, and it’s only inevitable to move towards them, scrutinizing their depths with the same penetrating vision that the augurs had when deciphering the future from the insides of the sacrificial lamb. With all this comes relaxation, and what better to accompany reading a thousand-page book than a waterfall of ambient. In the end, this newfound Cocooning has come naturally and full of music that is worth spreading and sharing. For those horizontal days, there are albums like these, albums with no hurry.

Shamantis: “J. Biebz - U Smile 800% Slower”A million and a half visits to Soundcloud in just one week (and still growing) make this audio fragment the most insane and disconcerting viral phenomenon of the season. Perhaps he should go back to a long time ago, maybe to the days of “The Grey Album” by Dangermouse, to find another sound perversion which used the mainstream as a test bed for the application of new techniques of production and recreational uses of useless software (in this case, Paul’s Extreme Sound Stretch). Shamantis, the 20-year-old Nick Pittisnger who resides in Tampa, is an amateur producer of downtempo with a fixation with cinematography (better to say that he was, as he already has offers from labels) who had the idea of defiling “U Smile” by the teen idol Justin Bieber. He slows it down 800%, with the original three minutes extended to 35 in angelic suspension, with oceanic amplitude and a voice that sounds like a whale’s song, reaching a point where it reminds us of the most beautiful passages of Sigur Rós or a choral piece that Arvo Pärt could compose for MTV. Listen - it’s magic. However, a word of advice before your enthusiasm takes off: Stretching songs to 800% is becoming very popular, and people are going to begin abusing the formula, meaning that it will stop being amusing in just a matter of weeks. But still, Shamantis has sounded his horn, and “U Smile 800% Slower” is, involuntarily and miraculously, one of the unexpected gems of the year

J. Biebz - U Smile 800% Slower

Justin Bieber - U Smile Bvdub: “The Art Of Dying Alone” (Glacial Movements Records)It should be noted, just in case, that marine discs, trembling and more fragile than fine china, can also work without the involuntary help of Justin Bieber, if need be. A long time ago, Brock Van Wey shook off the obsession with sounding like a diligent student of Basic Channel and ordered the hype, with very good reason, to go to hell. Since then, everything that he publishes (on his label, Quietus, and on others like Echospace [Detroit] and now on a small Italian label) sounds like an excess of clouds, like the flow of streams, like nirvana as it’s drawn for us by the mystics: that infinite peace and softness, the massage with an ending (not happy, mind you, but sublime apotheosis). Aware that this has come off sounding like proselytizing from the Age of Aquarius, it should be noted that "The Art Of Dying Alone" is not intended to convey comfort, but the morbid side of rest, when a leg stretches and becomes worm feed. Something traumatic must have happened to Bvdub to record an album that Acheron would listen to if, while on the boat crossing the River Styx, there was a parrot; and despite some moments when there is more guitar and piano, the result is one of those eerily ambient albums that erase any sense of the passing of time.

Simon Scott: “Traba” (Immune) Simon Scott, who even the most veteran of Shoegazers and their documentarists remember for having been in Slowdive, recorded one of the lost records of 2009, a treasure that, like most of the treasures that are worth something, sank to the bottom of this sea of audio that drowns us. “Navigare”, put out by the label Miasmah, could compete with the best of Tim Hecker contributions to the cultural wealth of humanity: the shooting of incisive and sacramental drones, the kind that pinch your skin and start up second by second, and complement the effect of ecstasy and dizziness with allusions to the sea, both in the title and the cover. After "Navigare", and also with the valuable digression of "Nivalis" (beginning of 2010), the sea is again a matter of obsession for Scott on this limited and hypnotic vinyl, “Traba”. It seems like the least toxic version of the Norweigian Elegi: The swinging among perfect drones, the sound of waves between the notes of the guitar that extend to the horizon. Although he forgets the Latin, which is always more solemn for titles, he doesn’t forget the wide ocean in "She Came From The Sea" and "The Water Loop”. 23 minutes that seem like a decade and still sound sweet.

PQ: “You’ll Never Find Us Here” (Expanding) Teho Teardo: “Soundtrack Work 2004-2008” (Expanding)The label Expanding had been inactive for a year, and it was suspected that they had closed their doors for good. Not so: this has only been, since the album Cathode came out, a brief hiatus, after which it will go back to a normal release schedule, of every two or three months. PQ’s debut (the Belgian duo comprised of Maarte Vandewalle and Samin Bekaert) adapts well to the two poles that interest the label Benge: on one hand, organic fragility with a piano base; and on the other, ambient with rhythmic bursts and melodies of a childhood garden, something in the middle between Goldmund and Opiate. It’s not very original, but heard in the background, decorating the room like a beautiful tapestry, it’s effective music. As a precaution, we should not put everything in one basket and we should pay double attention to Teho Teardo, soundtrack composer of recent Italian cinema, whose music is featured in “Il Divo,” the bitter portrait of Giulio Andreotti and political corruption pre-Berlusconi, as in “L’Amico Di Famiella” and “La Ragazza Del Lago” . And, part of that production is collected on “Soundtrack Works 2004-2008” with the blessing of none other than Ennio Morricone.

It’s splendid material that leaves two things clear, both good and bad: the good is that its language excites and uses the timbre of the cello, like a Mediterranean Nyman; the bad news is that the world ought to have known about him before. Now is the moment.

Tomas Phillips: “Quartet for Instruments” (Humming Conch)If you think that the content of these paragraphs is becoming sweeter than a couple of donuts, there is always time to recommend the work of Thomas Phillips, which is the same distance from these neoclassical composers with “pop” intentions as Nicolas Sarkozy is from the extreme left. With his novice years at the label Trente Oiseaux, later taken under the wing of Richard Chartier, for whom he signed “Intermission / Six Feuilles” on the label Line, and then supervised by Bernhard Günter, Tomas Phillips is on the road to opening an important spot in the school where the connection between the acoustic and the random style of Morton Feldman is drunk by the gulp. “Quartet For Instruments” is an open canvas that mixes the acoustic sounds, particularly of piano and clarinet, with electronic noise, which has both structure and anarchy, and, that avoids the harshness to the ear of much contemporary music without anything that would facilitate it to the listener. Like a good alchemist with “serious” composition, he knows how to separate the abstruse from the delicate and toast a distillation which, in the forty minute piece, radiates serenity and beauty…with an inevitable black spot.

Oneohtrix Point Never / Antony / Fennesz: “Returnal” (Mego) Games: “Everything Is Working” (Hippos In Tanks)How far the figure of Daniel Lopatin can grow and project itself is a great mystery. Not even a year ago, his name was only known to bloggers, writers at The Wire, and Boomkat’s clients, and now, in August, he has released a collaboration with none other than Antony . It’s a captivating cover of “Returnal”, the central piece of the album by Oneohtrix Point Never for Mego, which is devoid of hypnotic arpeggios and very restrained, as is any torch song with a gothic background whose intention is to make a profound impact. Here, Hegarthy sings more like Soap&Skin and Zola Jesus than himself. On the B-side, the song is the same, but with an ambient sheet hanging over it, courtesy of Fennesz. It sounds as good as it seems, and with this dual participation, Lopatin’s sound takes off from the electronic field, and finally enters in an obvious way, into the terrain of hypnagogia pop. All of the influence of eighties AOR, which was latent and defended with grounded declarations, now begins to flourish. Listen to the 7” by Games, where our man teams up with Joel Ford: hip hop beats, ambient like a silk scarf, and pop melodies with clear adult inspiration. Unlike other neo-synthesists of his generation, Lopatin has a much broader background, a more daring register, and a future, of course, more open

On: “Something That Has Form And Something That Has Not” (Type) Fennesz / Daniell / Buck: “Knoxville” (Thrill Jockey) Fennesz is another one of the men of the month, and not just for the varnished production that he gave to “Returnal”, but for the brushstrokes this Viennese made to give it an ash grey colour, with a light crackling of treble that penetrates the eardrum, to the new material by On , the duo made up of Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess. Keeping in mind that On is an experiment in acoustic improvisation (with piano, guitar, and percussion), Fennesz’ participation on “Something That Has Form…”plays the same role as Deathpod’s on the previously released “Your Naked Ghost Comes Back At Night” (which was re-released by Type last year): to dress it up with atmospheric noise, some drones and digital pulses in an exercise of stripped down notes. It’s not the most accessible Fennesz that appears here; it’s a Fennesz on the brink of screeching, not wanting to make friends or help to have sweet dreams, that in the end is the most lavish Fennesz. And if that’s not enough, continue with "Knoxville", the release of a live, pure improvisation at the festival Big Ears, with David Daniell (guitar) and Tony Buck (percussionist with The Necks). If you measure the success of an improv session as you would boxing when there’s no knock out (meaning, points based on good moves), “Knoxville” is a victory: there are discoveries of high emotional intensity among the noise, and although the album is never easy (it’s closer to Radian than Christina Aguilera, this is clear), the great integration of Daniell and Fennesz, recording guitars and giving them the software treatment, gets their soundscapes to flourish like a botanical garden.

Lugano Fell: “Slice Repair” (Baskaru) "Slice Repair" has everything you could ask of a modern ambient album: sounds like ice breaking, birds, and tactile instruments processed through the guts of a laptop doped up with plug-ins, sounds like ceramic and glass, blurred melodies that trace dreamlike features and memories from the past about to come undone in water and salt, which can, in a way, be noted as hypnagogia. It could be material from the first Taylor Dupree, or any artist from the label Spekk, and when it gets faster, it could be an old psychedelic folk track ( “Preform Naple”), not far from James Ferraro. Then, where’s the mystery? It’s in the real identity of Lugano Fell, who is none other than James Taylor, founder of the techno group Swayzak. We weren’t aware of this fondness or talent for relaxing, dark music with an eerie cloudy background. There comes a time in life when people prefer to spend the night stretched out in peace, away from overwhelming noise, hardships and inconveniences. We celebrate with fanfare Mr. Swayzak’s exit from the club and his joining together with the brotherhood of the home-bound.

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