We are really proud to be sharing such a lush album with you guys this weekend from Billow Observatory. I finally was able to sit all the way thru it today and it really came together as one of the most cohesive albums of the year. The sound is submerged in Loscil like drones but every so often you feel like everything comes up for air.
Time. It all comes back to time.
The self-titled debut album from Billow Observatory — the duo comprising Danish producer Jonas Munk, aka Manual, and Auburn Lull guitarist Jason Kolb — is a record that has been nearly a decade in the making, and a record that unfolds at a stately, unhurried pace, its subtleties revealing themselves with repeated listening. Its sound reflects its creators’ diverse backgrounds — Kolb’s ambient guitar work, along with Munk’s experience in film music and the minutiae of sound engineering — as well as their patience and devotion to their craft.
The genesis of Billow Observatory came in summer 2004, when Munk was first introduced to Kolb’s work with Auburn Lull. A split EP between Manual and Auburn Lull was mooted, and although this didn’t materialize, the duo began exchanging ideas and audio files, finally meeting in person during 2007 when they played a show together in Michigan.
As time passed, their work began to coalesce into what would become Billow Observatory — as Munk says, “We never expected to be working on material for six years, but something very exciting took shape as soon as we started working together and we had to follow that idea to the end.” The process of following that idea was slow and deliberate, one that required meticulous attention to detail and nuance. The resultant album is the work of two musicians at the top of their game, pouring years of experience and expertise into the creation of a record where every sound is there for a reason.
Munk adds, “The basis for most of this material comes from guitars and effects devices but every bit has been processed and treated with software… I didn’t use a lot of different effects – the focus on my part has been on shaping each bit of sound to perfection, still maintaining the character of a guitar but turning it into something that doesn’t sound ‘played’. I think of a lot of this material as sounding as if it comes from surroundings rather than from hands touching instruments.”
The music the duo have created is immersive and somehow timeless, evoking places and ambiences as exotic as some of those that give the songs their names. “I remember we would sometimes ask each other questions about random places with interesting names that we thought the other person would know something interesting about,” Kolb explains. “I would ask Jonas about the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia, or something in that general area of the world and he would ask something similar about Michigan or the Great Lakes. I think we were influenced by the idea of creating music that told vague, semi-fictitious histories of places we knew very little about.”
In an age where we race from one instant to the next, never stopping to think about the moment we’re inhabiting, Billow Observatory is a record that rewards patience and, yes, time. “[The album] is dense with emotion and meticulously crafted,” says Munk, “while feeling light and airy when listening to the song as a whole. I have had this album for over a year and it still withstands the test of time.”
It would be difficult to understate the influence of Lawren Harris’ abstract landscapes on Canadian identity. As a founding member of The Group of Seven, Harris pioneered a distinctly Canadian school of art that departed from European contemporaries of the same era. Minimal in texture and detail, his grandiose landscapes use sweeping curves and simplified abstract forms to capture a wider, almost spiritual representation of a landscape.
Fairly covering Harris’ entire career in a single blog post is tricky, but what I’ve presented here are the some of his best known works from Northern Ontario (Lake Superior) in the 1920’s and the Rocky Mountains and Arctic during the 1930’s. I’ve also provided a look at some of the more abstract, but less celebrated work he painted during the late 1930’s and 40’s. Overall, I find most of what he painted during these years to imbue a remarkable sense of modernism, and something I’m hoping readers of ISO50 can appreciate.
I know some of you are most likely familiar with the Group of Seven and Lawren Harris, but if not I would love to know what you think and if you find the work inspiring.
For the last month and a half I’ve been posting a series of found “shapes” on Instagram. The objects in the images are various places, signs, or vintage objects. Each image expresses my affection for simple, clean and effective design. It’s also about connecting with those lines; It’s about the feeling you get when viewing it.
It’s a challenge finding new compositions that really give off that spark, but it’s also fun. It’s also really interesting to see how others react to certain shapes and colors. Hope you enjoy!
“Forgotten Modernism” is the title of an ongoing visual exploration of San Francisco’s rich catalog of modern architecture by Michael Murphy:
Often overlooked, Modern architecture in San Francisco has played an important role in the ongoing Modernist Movement, and this work is an attempt to acknowledge the contribution that these stunning buildings make to the visual landscape.
Using bold colors and a stylized graphics, I portray this architecture not as something that quietly blends into a background, but rather elevating achievements that embody the best and highest principles that Modern architecture has to offer all of us.
Wish these were sold at every gift shop here in San Francisco.
A very inspiring and truly calming short interview by Milton Glaser, might help you slow down and not focus on the finishing line on your own personal work, I wish I spent more time with ink and watercolor, comes out very attractive.
Its been over a year since we started our series “Instagram Photo Favorites” we’ve highlighted over 70+ photographers and I wanted to just got back to not only recap but to share other great shots the photographers have taken since then.
Absolutely gorgeous work from Owen Perry aka Circa 1983. Really getting close to that late 70s / early 80s National Geographic look with some of this stuff while a lot of it is thoroughly modern. Check the rest of his portfolio, it’s really deep and you can watch his work evolve. Excited to see where he takes it.
The team at Saunders Architecture put together one of the most ideal 3 floor studios imaginable. Only reachable by hiking this black twisted tower is sits in one of the most peaceful looking terrains, I can’t even fathom the idea of living like this, its too good.