Posted by: Dominic Umile | 12/30/2009

(Non)Commutes: Max Cooper, Julianna Barwick, Casino VS Japan

Non-Holiday ListeningOutside of the records I’ve been listening to for the more fleshed-out reviews on the horizon, I’ve had a great deal of music come my way that I can’t even begin to properly discuss over here — it feels like there is so much between what I’ve been sent and what I’ve bought recently. Not including Bing Crosby, that Pogues song, and some cheery Xmas choral music, here is some of the stuff I’ve been enjoying on expensive holiday train trips to PA and back.

FlorineJulianna Barwick builds dense, warm textures by layering her vocals and little else. As she’s explained to 17Dots, these unearthly, soaring tones of hers, bathed in reverb and delay, are often not words, but sounds that Barwick improvised during the recording process. Florine is not going to be “for” everyone with whom I share this record, but those who are compelled to revisit Bjork or Juana Molina albums on a regular basis will likely find something to love about Julianna Barwick. For that crowd, “Sunlight, Heaven” will send chills down your spine. Watch Ray Concepcion’s film of a live rendition here.

Still Night, Still LightUK producer Max Cooper fills out a sparse, charming number from Au Revoir Simone’s Still Night, Still Light 2009 LP with an atmospheric brew of micro chimes, rustling sounds, and thick synth strings accompaniment. I appreciate the simplicity of Au Revoir Simone’s “Take Me As I Am;” it’s an unpredictable departure from the layered, very electronic nature of Still Night, an album that my better half introduced me to earlier this year. Alongside the others in the tracklist, it’s comparatively lo-fi — a close listen reveals a little room noise in the mix, and some car stereo sounds from the street below even filter into whatever Brooklyn room where “Take” was recorded. Because of its stripped-down feel, Au Revoir Simone’s reliable, interspersed harmonizing is particularly welcome during the verses of “Take Me As I Am.” The vocal contributions don’t materialize until the near-end of Cooper’s remix, but he stirs up a lovely, haunting mood that’s just beneath the surface of the earthy original — fragments of the electric piano are here, but along with the shaker percussion, they’re swapped-out for lethargic beats and a swirling, synthesized re-imagining of the melody. It’s a respectful tribute to an already great song — get it at XLR8R. I wrote about Max Cooper’s Symphonica EP here in July.

Casino Versus JapanThe sprawling self-titled 1998 debut from techno producer/experimental musician Erik “Casino Versus Japan” Kowalski is being reissued on Moodgadget. Its 74 minutes cover a great deal of Kowalski’s musical interests, from reluctantly developing ambient electronic — some of which reminds me of Somfay’s recent album or of Leila — to minimal, droning film score-type of stuff, to downbeat grooves. For those of us who are hearing this record for the first time (I am), it’s a pleasure to consider what kind of impact Kowalski’s work had on his IDM contemporaries, and on any other electronic musician who took immediate notice of Casino Versus Japan when this LP was first issued. Moodgadget is making available Kowalski’s record in digital or physical format in early January. Get “Blue Vacation (Part I)” for free at Surfing On Steam.

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