It’s 10 degrees outside, it snowed like 3 feet last night, and my friggin’ hands are still cold from scrapping ice off of my car, thank thee gods there’s bands like Lycia. Lycia’s ‘Cold’ is probably the most perfectly titled album ever, and also my favorite Lycia release to date. Cold truly invokes the feelings of bitter coldness and can easily conjure up images in ones head of seeing nothing but endless miles of snow. Musically as you probably know Lycia’s music lies in the darkwave field of music, but as always darkwave music is hard to describe. As far as Lycia is concerned they make very chilly, despondent, ethereal music that relies heavily on synth with the occasional use of guitar, bass, and percussion. Cold is just full of atmosphere like you wouldn’t believe (Try listening to this album in your car on a very cold snowy night and you’ll see what I’m talking about). Vocally Mike VanPortfleet and Tara Vanflower stick to very delicate whispered vocal styles that only add to this creepy wintry atmosphere. With this release Lycia perfectly captures the feelings of winter. All in all a fantastic release that always sees a lot of attention during these months of the year. Fans of darkwave music or those just looking for something dark, frosty, and disheartening sounding should own this.
~ Joe Mlodic, Lunar Hypnosis
Cold is one of those impossible to achieve ambient classics, built from Mike VanPortfleet’s frightening vision of endless desperation and loneliness, made all the more chilling by Tara Vanflower’s lingering, ghost-like voice, and David Galas’ precision bass-work, drum, and synth contributions. With a landscape of endless snow and ice, banshee-wailing winds, and a jolt of perpetual fear, Cold is a walk into someone’s unending nightmare.
Originally released in 1996 on Projekt Records, this haunting soundtrack has set a standard for ambient music that proves that created sounds can explore the depth and expanse of human emotion, in this case, totally abject fear. One of the more superior tracks, “Baltica” is beyond description. When Vanflower begins her eerie vocals, the song takes on a new life and personifies the album. Cold, simply, has to be heard to be experienced and appreciated.
Cold is largely for ambient fans, although many have professed a love for this work. Cold has even been used in film because it lends itself so well to an atmospheric storyline. I’m surprised that VanPortfleet hasn’t an established career in film soundtrack.
However, I do have an issue with this release, and that is the absence of a detailed booklet. The original digipak released by Projekt was devoid of words, letting the music do the work. In this reissue, there should be some historical data, some written words on the creation of this album. I think that this work demands that kind of immortalizing at this point, 11 years later. I have hope that the next time Cold is revisited, it gets the complete treatment is deserves.
Timeless works are defined by their ability to be revisited over time. Lycia’s Cold is absolutely one of these classics.
~ Matt Rowe, Music Tap
Lycia always has been one of my favourite b ands. Ever since I discovered Lycia ‘s groundbreaking album Ionia their coldwave (or whatever you might call it) is a league of their own. The mixture of the icy and slow guitar of David Galas, the mesmerising voices of Mike VanPortfleet and Tara Vanflower together with compelling drums and synths manage to create an atmosphere like no one else. Cold actually concerns a re-release since it is originally released in ’96. Now re-mastered it is available on Silber Records.
I fully understand why Silber Records decided to re-release this album because Cold is one of the most highly respected albums our American friends. With opening track Frozen they set the tone; cold, dramatic and dreamy dark passages which seep you in the surreal world of Lycia . It feels like opening the curtains and the entire world is lost; covered under a deep blanket of the purest white snow. My favourite track is Drifting, which also can be found on the Project label sampler Beneath the Icy Flow; a beautiful slow passage where the qualities of the threesome mentioned above are presented in a perfect manner. All nine songs are superb and saw too it that the album made its spins in my cd-player over and over……
If you are a fan of Lycia you might already have purchased Cold. If not; buy it!
Cold is a must have for everyone who’s a fan of atmospheric music. Cold is more than just an ordinary album. It is a collection of impressions and feelings bundled and presented in a sublime manner!
Cold is right, this reissue of Mike VanPortfleet’s dark ambient music project’s third album, emits an icy chill into the atmosphere. Endlessly dark walls and waves of synthetic gloom surround the goulishly gothic whispered male vocals or Tara Vanflower’s cooly cooing singing, which makes things sound like a very sad Cocteau Twins stirring the last embers of the bonfire as the night surrounds them. Like dark soundtracks to ominous and terrifying mysteries.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine
Cold is the latest in a series of Lycia reissues offered by Raleigh, North Carolina’s Silber label. According to the press release that accompanied this CD, Cold has apparently been the most well-received album from this band…having already been embraced by Goth folks and space music freaks. This album is dark and spacey…and the instruments are drenched in reverb and other effects. The voices seem to have been added at the end of the recording process…often sounding more like background effects that traditional lead vocals. Folks who found The Cocteau Twins too accessible and poppy will probably find Lycia much more to their liking. Odd, moody, and slightly surreal…Cold is a dark and peculiar album full of ambient washes and cool tripped out guitars. Nine cuts here including “Frozen,” “Colder,” “Drifting,” and “Polaris.”
Silber continue their fascinating Lycia reissue series with the album (originally recorded and released in the winter of 1996) that Alternative Press hailed as “one of the Top 10 Goth-related albums of all time.” The trio of bassist David Galas, groupie-turned-band member/vocalist, Tara Vanflower and leader Mike VanPortfleet (who personally remastered this reissue with an incredibly crisp, explosive atmosphere that completely envelops the listener in a wall of sound), had recently relocated form the arid deserts of Arizona to the frozen landscapes of northern Ohio, resulting in a more expansive, more sound-oriented (as opposed to song-oriented) album. This becomes immediately apparent on The Cure-like opener, ‘Frozen.’ Tara’s disembodied vocals emulate a lost soul, “frozen” in the wilderness, perhaps reaching out for the comfort of human contact and bodily warmth. Both VanPortfleet and Galas’ throbbing, stalking bass favorably recall the detached ennui of The Cure’s “suicide trilogy” (‘Faith,’ ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and ‘Pornography), with the latter perhaps being the closest sonic comparison. In fact, apart from the thermally descriptive aspect of the album’s title, it may be no accident that it is also the title of one of ‘Pornography”s most jarring tracks.
‘Bare,’ as its title suggests, strips away some of Lycia’s more bombastic aspects for a more ethereal approach, settling comfortably between the grandeur of Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Gonging bells, forlorn, far off piano tinklings and Tara’s nursery rhymish “la la la’s” float across ‘Baltica,’ which has more of a darkwave, noirish, European vibe, a la Clan of Xymox, with a touch of Kate Bush’s more theatrically aloof whispers hovering in the background. ‘Colder’ is more cinematic and expansive, as the trio delve deeper in to the influence their arctic surroundings had upon their psyches and bodies, moving from 100+ degree temperatures to below-zero frost. The track’s swaying aura also occasionally reminded me of vintage Slowdive, particularly ‘Spanish Air.’ Bells and tambourines add a festive atmosphere to ‘Snowdrop,’ perhaps reflecting the band’s experience of their first snow-covered Christmas. Being a northeast coast US lad myself, I can’t imagine a Christmas, or at least a winter without a blanket of snow to frolic in, let alone spending it in the blistering desert sun, and this sense of wonder is beautifully captured by the track, which is fittingly one of the album’s more upbeat efforts. It expresses an almost childlike wonder and fascination with the snow-covered mountains, hills and backyards of their new neighborhood. The album’s main themes seem to be exploring the dichotomy of the desert heat vs. the cold Midwest winters, as well as the anxiety flushed with fascination of an entirely new physical environment which they have translated into their music.
One final side note for fans who prefer, or whose schedule requires them to do most of their listening in their vehicles: kudos to Silber honcho Brian John Mitchell for making the extra effort of adding the CD information to the disk, which displays the track titles on CD players so equipped. An unfortunate aspect of the bleak artwork is that the track titles are almost completely invisible, which is very frustrating for reviewers and anal-retentive types like me who like to know the name of the song they’re listening to. So having it scroll across the CD head unit is a technological advance that most labels don’t take the time (or expense) to provide their customers. It may be a minor point, but it shows the dedication to his fans’ needs that Mitchell provides via his wonderfully eclectic label. So, we highly recommend this personally remastered edition to fans of Gothic, Darkwave, noirish, ambient soundscapists from 4AD-enizens, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and Clan of Xymox to fans of The Cure’s “suicide trilogy” period, as well as former Lycia labelmates at Projekt (Black Tape for A Blue Girl, Love Spirals Downward) and the more commercial end of the Goth scene like Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Delerium, and Die Form.
~ Jeff Penczak, Terrascope Online
If you’re one of the uninitiated, I’ll admit it: there’s really no easy entrance into Cold, Lycia’s fourth full-length (fifth, if you count 1989′s Wake). At first blush, it’s overwrought and pretentious, rife with any and every goth cliché you can think of, from Mike VanPortfleet’s sinister vocals to lyrics such as “All the aching signs we miss/To live in purple scarlet bliss/And swim with jeweled golden fish/And breathe the autumn air so crisp” (“Snowdrop”) to morose, shadowy atmospherics guaranteed to cause pale folks in long, black robes to start swaying and swirling en masse.
The thing is, Lycia never attempt to deny any of this. They do nothing to deny the clichés inherent in their music. On the contrary, they dive headlong into them with wild abandon, inhabiting them fully, and never once shirking from the stylistic and aesthetic ramifications. As such, the music certainly never transcends its clichés and tropes. Rather, the band’s intensity and integrity transforms those clichés into something that feels wholly original, lively, and perhaps most importantly, convincing.
Originally released in 1996, Cold is noteworthy for several reasons. One, Cold marked the band’s move towards a more atmospheric, expansive sound. Two, its creation and release coincided with Mike VanPortfleet’s move from his native Arizona to the snowbound wastelands of Ohio (hence the abundant winter imagery). Three, it was essentially Lycia’s “breakout” album, earning them fans outside their original goth circles. And four, it marked Tara Vanflower’s growing role within the band, on both vocals and keys.
Even with a slight change in sonic direction, though, Cold is still unmistakably Lycia. While the sound might move/drift in a more ambient manner, the basic elements—VanPortfleet’s skeletal whisper of a voice, his brittle guitars, the ominous drum programming—remain the same. Which, when it works, makes for pretty compelling stuff.
There are moments when Lycia gets a little too caught up in the mood and the moment, and the music becomes a bit too pretentious for its own good. However, that’s always been the case with Lycia’s music going all the way back to Wake—and as I mentioned before, pretentious really goes with the territory. But when Lycia hits their stride, all of the pretense and bombast works entirely in their favor, and the music feels more comprehensive and accomplished than portentous.
“Bare” is the album’s standout track, and like much of the Vanflower-laced tracks in the band’s catalog, resembles a much darker, spookier Cocteau Twins (think the Cocteaus attempting something along the lines of Pornography).
If Victorialand was inspired by Antarctica’s magical landscapes, then “Bare” comes straight from the continent’s long, sunless winters, during which one’s sanity is challenged by the nightbound weeks as the aurora australis shimmers high overhead. VanPortfleet’s guitarwork is especially noteworthy here, capable of creating both icy sheets of noise that seem to suck the very warmth from the air as well as delicate, lofty notes that inject a little light and warmth into the song’s latter moments.
The band sounds nothing short of majestic on “Snowdrop”, approaching the hallowed territory of Dead Can Dance’s earlier albums, back when Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry were still exploring the mystical and the arcane in their music. The song moves at a solemn, stately pace, Vanflower’s voice echoes between shimmering towers of icy synths, and the entire song seems to be wrapped up in a winter wind so sharp and cold, it takes the breath away.
Lycia’s world can be a tough one to fully enter into, simply because it’s so easy and tempting to dismiss. However, once you set foot into the band’s dark, twilit realm and surrender, even just a bit, to their whims and fancies, the effect is bracing and even thrilling—much like the coldest and stiffest winter breeze you can imagine.
~ Jason Morehead, Opus
We wrote before about Lycia, of whom Silber Records are now releasing five older CDs. Lycia was Mike van Portfleet (guitars, vocals, synth and drum programs), David Galas (bass, synth, drumprograms, audio-engineering) and Tara Vanflower on vocals. Of the planned re-issues, apparently ‘Cold’ is the masterpiece, one of the top ten Goth albums of all time, according to Alternative Press (maybe says something about being alternative) and goth and me was never a good marriage. Having said that and having played ‘Cold’, I must admit could actually enjoy the music. It’s absolutely nicely produced dark popmusic, brought with a lot of pathos, heavy drums, dark minor chords on the guitar and atmospheric synthesizers. Still, being an old guy, I prefer the old Cure and Cocteau Twins records – I can even admit having a Dead Can Dance record on my ipod – but I surely like this as well. However the thought of hearing ten different goth records in order to produce a top ten is of course a bridge too far.
~ Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Als recensent probeer ik platen altijd even de kans te geven. Voordat ik mijn altijd weldoordachte mening (ahem) toevertrouw aan de wereld speel ik een plaat meestal drie tot vier keer. Het is grappig om te zien hoe sommige platen groeien in meerdere luisterbeurten. In eerste instantie doet de muziek je weinig, maar met een paar keer luisteren begin je een plaat meer te waarderen (en misschien ook wel te begrijpen). Of niet natuurlijk. Andere platen blijven kleven. Als stroop.
Lycia’s Cold is typisch een plaat waar het woord “stroop” op van toepassing is. De muziek blijft hangen en omhult je in een soort zachte cocon. Het woord stroperig is ook van toepassing op de muziek zelf. Of Lycia een grondlegger genoemd mag worden van het genre “shoegazer” weet ik niet. Feit is wel dat de band al sinds 1988 bezig is en vaak van samenstelling heeft gewisseld, meerdere keren is gestopt om daarna weer nieuw leven te zijn ingeblazen. Een tijd hebben ze op Sam Rosenthal’s label Projekt gezeten, in 2003 zijn ze overgestapt op Silber Media die is begonnen hun platen opnieuw uit te geven, gere-mastered door frontman Mike VanPortfleet. “Cold” stamt dan ook origineel uit 1996.
Ik noemde dus al even de term shoegazer. Wie bekend is met het geluid van bands op labels als Projekt of 4AD (denk Black Tape For A Blue Girl of Cocteau Twins) weet ongeveer wel wat te verwachten. Noem het shoegazer, noem het darkwave of ethereal. Het is rustige, om niet te zeggen, lome, melancholische muziek, trage drums, wazige gitaar en etherische zang wat allemaal verzuipt in galm. De nummers zijn stuk voor stuk hypnotiserend en sterk en het album klinkt inderdaad koud. Ik vind het moeilijk er toppers uit te kiezen, maar als het dan moet, ik geniet heel erg van nummers als “Baltica” (waar ik invloeden van Dead Can Dance in meen te herkennen) en “Drifting”. Echt een plaat om te spelen als je opgerold in een wollen trui in een stoel voor het raam zit te genieten van sneeuwstorm in het vale ochtendlicht. Een plaat om te beluisteren, te beluisteren en nog eens te beluisteren.
P.S. Ik ben altijd benieuwd geweest of je nu eigenlijk het verschil kunt horen tussen het origineel en een geremasterde versie. Ik heb toevallig het origineel en heb ze eens vergeleken op een goede koptelefoon. D’r is inderdaad een verschil te horen, het geluid klinkt wat voller en dieper (veel meer kan ik er als niet-audiofiel ook niet over zeggen, ben ik bang).
With icy blasts of condensation, Context. Where? has been charging across the stereo field of my hifi for tha past few days. Michael Walton has been here before under his mwvm moniker, drawing long glissando drones from his customized guitar-based effects set-up. Last year’s debut self-titled EP opened a door to a more interesting breed of guitar instrumental. Taking his lead from luminaries such as Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride (both collectively and individually), Walton runs with these ideas and electrifies them. This particular track has been available on the mwvm myspace page for a little bit, but released from the myspace player it has been buffed and polished until it shines.
Too often, so-called drone ambient artists ignore the grand romantic sweep in favor of micro-dynamics, the random scratch of a radio dial, the bluster of white noise feedback, but Walton steers a refreshingly different course whereby distinct guitar resonances are built, layer upon layer, frequency band upon frequency band creating distinct and delicate melodies. Never once relying to cliché (of course completely unlike this reviewer), his first full-length release, Rotations, is set for release on September 25th by Silber Records.
This is music to be listened to and, as such, to categorize this as ambient is dangerous. This album cannot be ignored and therefore immediately breaks Eno’s first law of ambient. Nevertheless, it drifts with intent, at first lulling the listener then pummeling them with sound. There have always been albums that have incited listeners to play them loud. Here we have one that really does need it. To listen to it quietly removes its sheer physicality.
Rather than the occasionally polite but floating drone of William Basinski, mwvm slams into the target. You don’t float with Rotations, you drown in it, twisting and writhing. The immediacy of each melodic and harmonic theme enveloping the listener within each track and the album as a whole.
mwvm – Context. Where? MP3 from Rotations (Silber Records, 2007)
~ echo, D!M
style: shadowy minimal ambient
similar: other silber artists, NPR’s Hearts of Space, 2001: a Space Odyssey
rating: **** If you haven’t yet experienced what a guitar can do outside the conventional thinking box, rotations is a place to begin. UK artist mwvm plays with guitars that produce otherworldly ambient textures that you could swear are computer electronics and synth. The UK artist has worked with guitar effects since the mid-90s and finally releases this debut. Goody, there is much to explore here. The coolest thing about rotations is that the tracks blend together seamlessly. Mind expanding for sure.
~ Kenyon Hopkin, Advance Copy
Drone ambient is, unfortunately, appealing only to a very small sliver of people. The basic element of drone compositions is a swelling and ebbing core of music that is wrapped by filaments of other, smaller sounds. This produces several elemental ideas that replicate the outer darkness of space or an internal loneliness. Whatever metaphor you choose, drone music can effectively provide a center to be built around.
On Rotations, the ambient drone album from Silber’s UK-based artist, mwvm, better known as Michael Walton, there are 10 tracks of lengthy (a good thing) pieces of guitar manipulations and repetitions produced in an isolationist environment. In so doing, the eeriness and desolation of being alone reveals itself through the music. This can be a powerful thing if drunk in moments of self-introspection.
All of Rotations is intriguing if you pursue music in many forms, drone ambient being one of them. There are few artists producing this type of melody and harmonics, much as there were few artists dabbling in electronic manipulations back in the late ’70s. But those that perfected the genre ruled it.
Michael Walton’s mwvm is one of those pioneers, along with POD and Fear Falls Burning (vidna obmana side project), that can evolve with the music they produce in all of its industrialized, internalized, and spacey madness. Recommended for the adventurous.
~ Matt Rowe, Music Tap
‘Rotations’ is the debut album from County Durham UK, based musician Michael Walton. Curiously I wonder what the name means, since I’m assuming it’s an abbreviation for four words with the first two being Michael Walton, but the vm, perhaps only Michael could answer this question.
That little mystery aside, Rotations is an album filled with sixty one minutes of ambient guitar work, with absolutely no keyboards. I’m really enjoying this record because it sounds a lot more melodic and less drony than most artists in this genre. Also because most of the songs share common traits with the calmest & dreamiest parts of post rock bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or The Silver Mt. Zion. Bands like Stars of the Lid, If Thousands, and Eluvium also seem to come to mind as I listen to this charming record. The music is of course very peaceful and leisurely paced, but even so at times the music does get a little intense as displayed on ‘It’s Easy To Be Miserable’ when a bit of harsh noise enters near the end. ‘Negative Pole’ is another example where there is a buzzing sort of noise layered over the guitar drone, while the rest of the time spent on this album is mostly a relaxing and beautiful sounding journey.
Michael Walton has given us a record that shares common characteristics with ambient, post rock, and even some noisier moments, but it all gels together nicely for one enjoyable experience I suggest you check out.
~ Joe Mlodic, Lunar Hypnosis
Rotations features the kind of classy, odd ambient stuff that has made the Silber label a household name among a small yet devoted group of people around the globe. mwvm (none of the letters are capitalized) is the solo project created by Michael Walton who resides in County Durham in the United Kingdom. Walton’s music consists of all-instrumental electronics…slow, methodical, and dreamy in nature. The guitar playing on this album is rather unusual in that it is very hard to actually recognize the guitars. Much of this music is so soft and subtle…that it is rather difficult to describe. This is the sort of music that is best used to create odd, surreal moods in your living environment. Tired of bopping around to the latest catchy pop band? Or have you found yourself grinding your teeth away once too often after too many loud blasts of harsh metal? If so take a chill pill…put on Rotations…and allow yourself to float away on a serene cloud of
mental fluidity. Wonderful sounding rich stuff…far too peculiar for the casual listener. Recommended.
Ouch, this is going to be hard one. Behind MWVM is one Micheal Walton from Durham, UK, and he started to play music in 1996 and adopted the name MWVM in 2005. He plays a guitar and effect pedals. His music can be classified as ambient music. When I played this CD I kept thinking: Eno, Fripp, Fear Falls Burning, Hypnos, Stars Of The Lid. Been there, done that, you know the drill. I could all to easily slag this down as copycat 2983, but actually I really like the music. Nothing new under the ambient sun, but it’s nice, it’s entertaining, it’s atmospheric, it’s beautiful. Music doesn’t need to be per se new and innovative in the Vital HQ, but it’s nice if it is. If it isn’t, fine too, and we could simply enjoy the beauty of it and ‘Rotations’ is certainly a beautiful album.
~ Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
The field of electric guitar ambience — feedback and tones played, looped, treated, and more — is now its own well-established tradition, from the early experiments of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno to any number of later drone artists. Michael Walton’s formal debut under the MWVM moniker is as a result familiar rather than something strikingly new, but Rotations is nonetheless a lovely effort all around, showing good skills in performing and arranging and signaling a promising future. Notably, in an era of extremely clean home-recording possibilities, Walton keeps the tape hiss in, much like Dave Pearce, a partial sonic forebear, did with Flying Saucer Attack. “Context. Where?,” the excellent opener, captures that as well as Walton’s knack for meditative but triumphant arrangements — if so many such compositions can feel like a warm sunrise, this feels like an enveloping one. It makes further sense that the following song would be called “Fireside,” since again there’s a sense of embracing comfort in the high, slow swirl of tones — there’s little overtly dark-as-such in Walton’s work, no deep howling drones, but instead a chilled contemplation that emphasizes serenity. “Celestial Motion,” with its back-and-forth collage touched with what sounds like a heavenly choir of ghosts, might be the pinnacle of this part of the album, while “Windows” plays up a piercing microsecond shriek as the swells rise and fall without disrupting the mood. There’s also some dry humor at play — a brief, moodier number is called “It’s Easy to Be Miserable.”
~ Ned Raggett, All Music Guide
Drone and minimalist acts are not the easiest genres to listen to. With slow, entrancing waves of sound that fade in and out as though they had surpassed the flow of time itself, most drone is best appreciated with headphones on and plenty of time to kill. mwvm’s debut album is no different, other than the fact that it seamlessly blends the organic with the electronic. Whereas most drone and ambient acts are quick to turn to computer generated sounds to produce their music, mwvm’s debut Rotations is made entirely with a guitar and pedals. The result is a natural, flowing sound that at times sounds electronically composed, and is an experience worth diving into.
Rotations is particularly notable because every song on it sounds as though it was composed with electronics. Michael Walton, the sole musician behind this effort, is clearly experienced in the use of delay pedals and various effects as he uses both to create layered landscapes of sound that will pull the listener in and let them drift among its various textures and melodies. Listening to many of the songs on Rotations is similar to lying in the middle of a field and letting the wind pass over you; it’s calming and will put you at peace.
Although some forms of drone focus on haunting sounds, mwvm is more focused on melodic backdrops that repeat and slowly change. Walton has created guitar sounds that often sound nothing like a guitar, and could potentially fool some people into thinking otherwise. But make no mistake, Rotations is an extremely minimalist album. This isn’t an album to drive to or listen to casually; it demands your full and undivided attention.
Minimalist artists may not be everyone’s style, but if you’re able to appreciate the genre or have an open mind then check out Rotations. It seamlessly makes the organic sound electronic and provides ambient backdrops that stimulate without becoming boring. Michael Walton has showcased a unique way of playing the guitar that is both ambient and entrancing, and hopefully people will take notice of that.
~ Chris Dahlberg, Cosmos Gaming
Michael Walton is a UK-based electronic musician that explores the sonic capabilities of a manipulated electric guitar within the constructs of the ten gorgeous instrumental tracks here. A seamlessly sublime series of deeply cool ambient sound fields. Excellent, subtle, nuanced and dreamily transportational drone-based works.
~ George Parsons, Dream Magazine
Durham resident, Michael Walton is mwvm (you’re on your own figuring what the “vm” stands for) and ‘Rotations’ is his debut full length release of minimalist guitarscapes in the classic tradition of Remora, Aarktica, Windy & Carl and Stars of the Lid. The nebulous, floating opener, ‘Context. Where?’ immediately establishes a somewhat confusing, sensory deprivation tank atmosphere as the listener searches for terra firma, perhaps wondering: “Is that a keyboard…guitar…synth…perhaps a violin…? Walton’s work is all about harmonics…drones… you won’t find any “songs” here in the traditional verse/chorus/verse structure. In fact, the beauty of the music is that there is no structure to any of it, although I’m sure Walton may argue that it’s all carefully “constructed” in the Beefheartian sense. You most certainly will feel warmth enveloping you as Walton’s guitars create a sense of returning to the womb, with the listener perhaps subconsciously reliving the pre-birth period of floating in amniotic fluid.
‘Fireside’ continues the soothing, relaxing atmosphere. Imagine cuddling up beside it and letting its warmth overtake you, like anesthesia slowly dissolving the mind into a state of waking unconsciousness. But then there’s an ominous, industrial metallic sheen razorblading across ‘It’s Easy To Be Miserable” that suggests this track may not be the best track to listen to alone in the dark, coming down from the previous evening’s revelries! The lack of space between tracks also invites the listener to experience ‘Rotations’ as a single track, with each of the ten titled segments representing a slight mood swing… a variation on a central theme, whose meaning is open to the individual interpretation of each listener. If I may suggest several: a representation of the various stages of the psychedelic experience, a transitional passage through different levels of R.E.M. sleep, or perhaps a musical treatise on the fine line between the conscious and unconscious worlds. As such, the album can almost serve as a scientific experiment. I’d love to have a bunch of wires attached to me and be loaded down into one of those sensory deprivation tanks that William Hurt inhabited in ‘Altered States’ and have the album pumped in through headphones and then have the EEG/EKG patterns my body emits under the influence of ‘Rotations’ evaluated. That’s not to suggest by any means that you go home, drop a few roofies and spread out on the couch and let ‘Rotations’ do its thing. But if you have been suffering from bouts of insomnia, the soothing, ambient swashes of ‘Rotations’ ethereal guitar strains is guaranteed to lower your blood pressure a few notches.
From the ebb and flow of the title track and the backward phasing at the beginning of ‘Oratory Clout’ to the Tangerine Dream-like soundtrack stylings of ‘Sleepy Crayfish,’ ‘Rotations’ does at times sound like a hearing test, but for contemplative navel-gazing, I’ve not heard a better soundtrack all year. Highly recommended to snorecore enthusiasts, aerobic cybernauts and fans of Eno’s ambient period. I could also attest firsthand, that it’ll take the sting and ag
gravation out of a long, gruelling trek to work. Just roll up the windows, crank this up, and enter a completely relaxed dimension that’s an instant cure for road rage. Just be sure to watch my rear end, not hers!
~ Jeff Penczak, Terrascope Online
MWVM is het alter-ego van de Engelse Michael Walton. Volgens de bijgeleverde persinformatie is deze man al sinds 1996 aan het rondrommelen met pedaaltjes. Na een aantal goed ontvangen demo’s is Rotations zijn debuutalbum op Silber Media. Muzikaal gezien zit MWVM in de hoek van ambient. Het zou allemaal uit een gitaar moeten komen, maar het klinkt alsof het ook keyboards of orgels zouden kunnen zijn.
Je raadt het al, dit is warme, veellagige ambient, die af en toe eens wat kouder of donkerder klinkt (bijvoorbeeld track 3 “It’s Easy To Be Miserable”), maar echt dark ambient is het niet. Nee, bij mij roept het hele andere associaties op. Het eerste nummer “Context. Where?” doet me nog het meeste denken aan rustigere instrumentale stukken van Sigur Rós(zo rond de tijd van ( )). Track 4 “Negative Pole” roept weer heel sterke associaties op met nummers van het album “Autumn Calls” van Tor Lundvall en Tony Wakeford. Ook Troum is een naam die bij me opkomt, voornamelijk omdat ook zij veelal gitaarmanipulaties doen, maar nee, Troum is vaak net een tikkeltje duisterder. De persinformatie noemt dan weer Lycia.
Je leest het al, voldoende aanknopingspunten dus. Zij die houden van ambient / gitaarmanipulaties / drones zullen dit wel op prijs kunnen stellen. MWVM zet naar mijn mening geen uniek geluid neer, het sterke gevoel van herkenning die sommige nummers bij me oproepen is tekenend hiervoor. Als hij echt uit het huidige kader wil stappen, dan raad ik hem aan er nog wat andere instrumentalisten bij te halen, dat zou voor hele, hele interessante muziek kunnen maken. Ik prijs dit misschien niet de hemel in, maar de artiest is wel bekwaam in wat hij doet en de plaat luistert erg plezierig weg.
ELECTRIC BIRD NOISE: FRAGILE HEARTS…FRAGILE MINDS
Electric Bird Noise gives us five reasons not to judge a band by any single composition you might happen to hear from them. That is to say at least on ‘Fragile Hearts…Fragile Minds,’ EBN gives us five diverse and interesting songs.
EBN is essentially the creation of Brian McKenzie whom began experimenting with loops & effects ten years ago, but over the course of many live shows and now three albums he’s developed and changed the sound of the band. In his own words Brian calls his music ‘cinematic instrumental guitar music,’ which obviously isn’t going to fully answer the question as to what this band plays.
The first song is just… odd. It’s some sort of weird electronic piece with a catchy melody to it, but it’s unfortunately only a minute in length. Track two features a memorable repetitive guitar riff melody with keyboards and effects layered over it and a brief vocal performance at the beginning. Track three features a curiously spooky sort of sounding lead synth melody with a backing drum track to it, and adds some heavier electronics in the middle and at the end. This is definitely the best this album has to offer. The fourth song features a distorted piano with some sort of backing noise, but honestly this is the albums lowest point. Finally we come to the last song, which happens to be a staggering twenty six minute ambient post rock like piece.
Collectively Fragile Hearts…Fragile Minds runs for just thirty seven minutes, and therefore you should get an idea as to how short the other songs on this album are. It’s weird because the first four or at least the first three seem like more could have been added to them almost as if they were unfinished. All in all though, EBN gives five very different compositions that are of varying quality, some great (2 & 3), some good (1 & 5), and some just bad (4).
~ Joe Mlodic, Lunar Hypnosis
REMORA: SONGS I SING
Songs I Sing is a perfectly descriptive title for this collection, as that’s what’s on it. Its genesis was the songs Remora (Brian John Mitchell) would find himself singing a cappella on-stage, to fill time while switching instruments or changing a guitar string. He took these songs and recorded them, mostly in a house but also, in a couple cases, in a hotel room and as a voicemail message. Strung all together like this, they form a strange and alluring animal: a demonstration of how disorienting yet comforting one voice singing can be. Some resemble the quickly written, straight-from-the-head songs of a child (“Half-Birthday”, “Sores”), others reverent hymns (“We Will Fall”, which structurally resembles a prayer but lyrically more of a confessional letter). There’s some element of folk tradition in these too, no matter how humorously or jokingly it’s conveyed. (No surprise, then, when he sings “Motherless Child”). He sings sometimes in a Townes Van Zandt-style troubadour’s voice (“I Called Your Mom”), sometimes the same way he sings Remora’s usual song-drones, sometimes demonic (“Heartworms”), and sometimes in a wicked-fast, odd way (the shortest songs, generally). All in all, this album comes off like a joke/experiment, but it’s also hard to shake, resembling as it does the ghosts of voices past, strung together as one. Think of exorcisms, of spirits singing through people, but also those goofy little ditties we all sing to our loved ones, in the moment.
~ Dave Heaton, erasing clouds
Known for his guitar driven explorations into soundscapes and noise, Remora (aka Brian John Mitchell) also adds vocals to many of his songs, making for an interesting combination of music, sound and voice. Songs I Sing is quite different for Brian, being a 13 track, 18 minute, vocal only work. The story is that Brian was touring with Rollerball and because he could only bring one guitar out west with him he would have to restring the instrument on stage whenever he broke strings. So he would keep the audience occupied by improvising songs during the restringing, which Shane of Rollerball liked so much he wanted to release on his North Pole label.
Most of the songs are less than two minutes and several less than one minute. Just fun little statements, and at times feeling like sing-song spoken word. While this is absolutely not the disc to introduce newcomers to Remora, it will appeal to those well familiar with Brian’s work. I think it was even easier for me to appreciate because I’ve had the opportunity to see Brian perform live twice this summer. (No, he didn’t break any strings but we were treated to his songs anyway.)
Of the 13 songs, three are covers. Coil’s “Heartworms” is a standout. I never heard the original but I love the double tracked voice singing “there’s too much blood in my alchohol”. Brian does a good job with The Stooges’ “I Will Fall”, which of any Stooges song is probably the most amendable to the kind of vocal treatment Brian is working with. Brian also cover’s Rollerball’s “Sores”, and if you pop the CD in your computer you’ll find a video of the song (in AVI, Quicktime and MPEG formats).
~ Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations
Brian John Mitchell si occupa della sua Silber Records da oltre dieci anni. Da altrettanto tempo pubblica dischi a nome Remora. Affreschi alienanti della disumanizzazione post industriale. “Songs I Sing” è invece un’altra cosa. Una raccolta di una dozzina di canzoni cantate a cappella con l’accompagnamento solo di un delay e di Jessica Bailiff al mixer. L’idea di registrare queste canzoni bizzarre è venuta a Shane De Leon dei Rollerball dopo aver sentito Brian intonare alcune melodie a cappella mentre accordava le sue chitarre durante alcuni tenuti assieme nel 2005. Tra le tredici canzoni di “Songs I Sing” – che insieme non superano i sedici minuti di durata – ci sono anche un tradizionale, “Motherless Child, una cover degli Stooges, “We Will Fall”, una dei Coil, “Heartworms”, e una dei Rollerball, “Sores”, di cui il cd contiene anche un video.
~ ROBERTO MANDOLINI, Losing Today
ORIGAMI ARKTIKA: TROLLEBOTN
Every once in awhile an extremely interesting release
comes along that despite being absolutely intriguing to listen to, one realizes it won’t have universal appeal. Origami Arktika’s latest album Trollebotn is one such release. Mixing in traditional Norwegian folk songs with ambient and haunting instrumentals, this is an extremely atmospheric and absorbing release if given the chance. But as it is entirely in Norwegian, that appeal is not as universal as one would like.
Origami Arktika took quite a bit of time to record this album, as they had retrieved the songs from those who still remembered them (they were beginning to fade away into legend and folklore). Not only that, but Trollebotn was recorded outside on a remote island near where the original legends came from. The result of this is an extremely unique and natural sounding album that mixes instrumentals in with the sounds of nature that were surrounding the band. Each and every song is extremely ambient, and often minimalist in nature. It may be hard to get into for some, but this album is almost tribal in its unique use of instrumental compositions.
What is going to severely limit this release for some listeners is the fact that all of the vocals are in Norwegian. Because of this many people are going to be unable to understand the lyrics, and as I cannot speak Norwegian either I will not be analyzing them. However, vocalist Rune Flaten does a great job singing on this album. Flaten’s voice has an almost otherworldly sound to it as he sings each folk song in his native language.
Trollebotn isn’t going to appeal to the mainstream because of how different it is. But those with an open mind who don’t bash something just because it’s unique will find an extremely compelling album that is almost a key to Norway’s past. Most may not be able to understand the lyrics, but that doesn’t keep Origami Arktika’s latest masterpiece from being a mysterious and entrancing release.
~ Chris Dahlberg, Cosmos Gaming
The music of the album is related with Trollebotn, a small area in Telemark in Norway with a wide open landscape and with a lake and mountains, a wild place associated with trolls and mountain giants. It used to be a backwards area with remains of extremely old customs and habits. In a time of further globalisation with fast consumingcultivation and regulation of land and all that is on it, this not only means that so much diversity in nature dies out ; the same happens in the diversity of mankind and all its privately kept and communal secrets, but also all the local variations of more recognisable memories and life stories. I just read that every two weeks another language dies out, and together with it all its customs, myths but also specific wisdoms related with certain areas, and learned in and for specific circumstances. But sometimes just variations of what is generally known dies out as well. Origami Arktika decided to sit down and try to preserve and relive all of what is left in especially Rune Flaten’s memory, because he had some of his musical roots in this area. Some traditional folk songs from Trollebotn and surrounding areas were suggested, and the group worked on them and let them mould very organically into something they felt most comfortable with. To succeed well in this, and with respect for preservation, and also in order to get the right feelings, just in case, not to be distracted from the true sense in them, they went for the recording session to this secluded island and shut themselves of from the rest of the world for a week, playing day and night. Eating, drinking and diving for the sea-serpent (the local legend) while not making music. Only a few extra musical additions were added later near Oslo.
A first thing that is great about the concept is that there is included great background info with each song, and for the Nordic people, lyrics, something which adds depth to the songs. The music is much improvised.
The first track, “Anne Sit Heime”, a lullaby, is softly accompanied by a repetitive pattern by the band, a result which works with a humming to sleep trance effect (even when the band uses drums and electric guitars). But also the next few tracks sound similar as if an old lady sings them to her children, while the band accompanies them with drums, bass, thumbpiano, percussion, rhythmically and with the same kind of humming drone effect. At other times the band plays more organically and technically free, and then it is as if the natural elements of the area reveal itself, with similar sounds like a wooden boat on water, iron or tin clancking to wood and so on, but also with use of water sounds or a soft rhythmically thunder-like bass drumming. The songs and also the stories behind them have very much the desolateness of the area in them, where you cannot escape from circumstances even when new things happen. In that way the band captured this well and express all the sad ballads moodily with a new contemporary sound.
~ Acid Folk Review