Jakub Alexander curates the music selections here at the blog. He also runs his Moodgadet record label out of Brooklyn, NY and does A&R for Ghostly International Records.
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Taken from ‘Veriditas’ LP by Helios out August 31, 2018.
On respective edges of America — Oregon and Maine — Keith Kenniff records quiet music at night. “When things are calmer,” he says. “My mind is less distracted when I know that everything is dark outside.” For over a decade, such has been the mode — nocturnal, unrushed, using the same mini-cassette recorder, “a lovely little imperfect way to treat sounds” — for one of the country’s most understated composers. Kenniff has housed dozens of ambient releases under the name Helios since 2004, alongside post-classical output as Goldmund, shoegaze pop with his wife Hollie as Mint Julep, and commissions for film and television. It is a reliably transportive body of work that’s earned Kenniff a cult following, and a genuine modesty that’s kept him on the fringes, right where he prefers, in the dark.
Kenniff mostly lets his music breathe free of explanation, open to interpretation. As listeners, we follow subtle suggestions — the fiery sky on the cover of 2012’s Moiety, the countryside daydream of 2015’s Yume — extracting meanings from imagery and inscriptions. Veriditas, the sixth Helios full-length, shares its name with twelfth-century philosopher Hildegard von Bingen’s notion of “the greening power of the divine,” the term derived from the union of two Latin words: green and truth. Bingen saw the abundance of the earth as vitality to be cultivated, interconnected with the body and spirit. Take the concept in concert with Veriditas’ vistas of sound, gazing beyond the tree-lined wonder on its artwork, and we undoubtedly recognize the album’s rooting. Kenniff elaborates, “While I’m not a very spiritual person as it relates to a religious belief, I do feel an overwhelming connection between the aesthetics I find pleasing in my experience of nature and my experience of writing music.”
Veriditas introduces unusual shapes and landscapes to the Helios catalog. Whereas past songs have followed traditional structures — discernable bell curves with beginnings, arcs, and ends — the focus here is texture and harmony. “I wanted to explore emotionality within something more static.” Synth-tones radiate and hum as vignettes, often crisp and cloudless, other times smeared to a queasy Boards of Canada-like unease. The latter burbles below the last moments of “Eventually” and looms over the opener “Seeming” like darkness inching across a forest. Tracks cease at will. “Seeming” fades just after a sliver of light cuts through the mossy pillars. “Latest Lost” mists for just one minute. “Row The Tide” for two, hovering like a helium balloon lost to the horizon. “Even Today” hangs above the snowcaps, suspended in an upper arboreal sequence, as shimmering surges of static trace the treetops below.
Moments on Veriditas pass quickly, but as a series of moments, they are fluid, almost regenerative. Disassembling the album by instruments is difficult. Unlike past Helios work, there is no percussion. The one straightforward use of guitar appears on the ambling “Upward Beside The Gale,” strummed solemnly as if over end credits, watching the greenery lapse to grey in the twilight. In the second half of “Dreams,” crystalline piano chords converse with washes of orchestral notes and deep drone, advancing towards temporal clarity, a lookout point, that once presented evaporates.
In a way, Veriditas parallels the path of the Helios project to date: patient, immense, and wondrous without ostentation. Kenniff continues to find a soothing and centering quality in his craft. Aligned with Hildegard von Bingen’s philosophy, Kenniff looks towards sound, like many do to nature, for momentary vigor, for elemental and nourishing prolificacy. Here, in pursuit of viriditas, with precise textures and harmonies, he humbly extends that verdant expression outward, wide and pliable.
MAY 16 – Eugene, OR – McDonald Theater *
MAY 17 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory *
MAY 18 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory *
MAY 19 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Complex *
MAY 21 – Denver, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater % $
MAY 22 – Albuquerque, NM – Villa Hispana %
MAY 23 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren %
MAY 24 – San Diego, CA – Open Air Theatre % $
MAY 25-27 – Chillicothe, IL – Summer Camp
AUG 2-5 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
AUG 10-12 – San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands
Following his recent signing to Ninja Tune, Leon Vynehall announces his debut album Nothing Is Still – a record that sees him digging deeper into the family history that has always inspired his most iconic tracks, whilst returning to his own musical roots.
Nothing Is Still is, at its core, an album dedicated to Vynehall’s grandparents. Emigrating from a leafy south east U.K. to New York City in the 1960s, their seven-day journey via boat from Southampton to Brooklyn, and the stories that followed, have only truly come to light upon the passing of his grandfather four years ago. “I knew they had lived in the U.S. and heard many anecdotes, but it was only after Pops died and my Nan presented these polaroids of their time there; of her waitressing at the New York Mayor’s Ball in ’66, or Pops with horses on a ranch in Arizona, that she delved deeper into their story, and I started to become overtly inquisitive about it” Vynehall says, following in depth conversations with his Nan to find out as much as he could about this part of his family history that was – in a way that easily resonates with us all – seemingly hidden in plain sight. “I felt the need to document this period for her, and it all just sort of snowballed from there.”
The result happened quite naturally, those early conversations going on to form an album of immense scale, physicality and wonder as well as two accompanying elements – a Novella and short films which expand the scope and context of the narrative. This is extended further through the use of visual artist Pol Bury’s ‘George Washington Bridge, NYC’ from his ‘Cinétisation’ collection as the album artwork; with permission granted to Vynehall by Bury’s wife – the artwork was created in New York by Bury at the same time as the album’s story takes place.
Clearly, that aforementioned feeling of exploration resonates with Vynehall creatively too. Vynehall has released two extended EP’s so far, his 2014 breakthrough Music For The Uninvited (3024) – a record inspired by the funk, soul and hip-hop tapes his mum used to play on car journeys which finished the year on a plethora of ‘Best of the Year’ lists including Pitchfork, FACT and Resident Advisor who called it “one of the most eclectic and rewarding house records you’ll hear all year” – and 2016’s Rojus EP (Running Back) which saw Vynehall building more layers and broadening the depth of his music to widespread critical acclaim including DJ Mag’s ‘Album of the Year’ and ‘Best New Music’ from Pitchfork for fan favourite single ‘Blush’. On both, he was crafting luscious grooves that were destined to dominate dancefloors. Nothing Is Still however, is defiantly atmospheric and textural, and finds him harnessing his passion for early contemporary minimalist composers such as Gavin Bryars as well as records like Philip Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi and Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air.
Written and predominantly performed by Vynehall with additional musicians including a ten-piece string section arranged by Amy Langley, Finn Peters (saxophone and flute), and Sam Beste (piano) whom completed the final recording sessions that took place at Konk Studio’s – Nothing Is Still was mixed by Blue May in London before making its own transatlantic flight to New York, where it was mastered at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi.
As well as being respected for the strength of his musical output, Vynehall has a global reputation as a DJ and curator. He has hosted and curated all-night-long residencies worldwide and has become a mainstay at many festivals including Glastonbury, Field Day and Sonar.
NOTHING IS STILL BY LEON VYNEHALL — OUT ON 15th June 2018
The return of Jon Hopkins and his new album, Singularity, his first since 2013’s breakthrough, Immunity. Singularity is due for release on 4th May 2018. Along with news of Singularity, Hopkins has shared ‘Emerald Rush’ the first track to be released from the album.
Singularity begins and ends on the same note: a universe beginning, expanding, and contracting towards the same infinitesimal point. Where Immunity – his hypnotic breakthrough LP – charted the dark alternative reality of an epic night out, Singularity explores the dissonance between dystopian urbanity and the green forest. It is a journey that returns to where it began – from the opening note of foreboding to the final sound of acceptance.
Shaped by his experiences with meditation and trance states, the album flows seamlessly from rugged techno to transcendent choral music, from solo acoustic piano to psychedelic ambient. Its epic musical palette is visceral and emotionally honest: with a destructive opener full of industrial electronics and sonic claustrophobia and a redemptive, pure end on solo piano.
Exploring the connectivity of the mind, sonics and the natural world, Singularity reflects the different psychological states Hopkins experienced while writing and recording. It is a transformative trip of defiance from his initial sense of frustration at the state of the contemporary world to the ultimate conclusion that a true sense of peace and belonging can only come from nature.
Singularity is intended to be listened to in one sitting, as a complete body of work.
Neon Pattern Drum
Feel First Life
C O S M
Following the first two elegiac notes to our dear lost Cindy, Palmbomen II’s third dedication arrives with the last 12” available independently of the four piece set and a new episode of Real Talk.
Throughout Memories of Cindy Pt. 3, voicings from the Palmbomen II paradigm are pared down to their vascular essentials. Pumping iridescent, melodic acid house through club fog and Californian smog on “Ultimate Lovestory Fantasy,” “Teleac,” and “Disappointment Island,” the nearly hymnal qualities of “Wilco’s Funeral” and “Fat Director” counter the dance cuts and commemorate Cindy with colors reminiscent of Schmoelling-era Tangerine Dream as twisted by Kai Hugo’s melon.