Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 Mix Tapes 3 and 4 ("Strings and Things"/"Nightmare Tracks")

So here are the final two 2010 mix tapes I'll be making. I'll almost certainly keep doing mixes but in the future they won't be confined to a single year. These are mixes 3 and 4 of this series: "Strings and Things" and "Nightmare Tracks," respectively.

"Strings and Things" is a collection of songs where most of the dominant instruments are those often associated with classical music (violins, cellos and so forth) with a good bit of piano thrown in for good measure. That isn't to say these are the only instruments by any means nor are most of these songs classical in any sense of the word. The instruments themselves are the only real unifier. As before I shot for some kind of cohesion nonetheless and hopefully you'll find it somewhat successful. Hildur Gudnadóttir's "You" begins with what sounds like a jangling zither and slowly builds layer upon layer of processed cello on top until the zither fades away and a stunningly beautiful sea of glowing noise pulses for ten glorious minutes, the soundtrack to the sun rising up through the ocean, pure bliss. Zoë Keating uses a looped cello as well but to a very different purpose. Her's is a driving piece, a rich, rapidly bowed cello sets the foundation for lush, weaving arrangements. Clogs and Fursaxa layer strings over acoustic guitar, the former with ghostly wordless vocals and marimba. Aaron Martin's track begins with a plucked banjo and layers of humming high end strings slowly building over top until the banjor disappears altogether and the mournful hum of cello takes its place. Meanwhile Library Tapes and Goldmund both offer solo piano pieces, ambient noise blooming beneath. Daniel Bjarnanson's piece comes from my current top choice for album the year. It's a ferocious, heart pounding piece for full orchestra, piano racing wildly, strings sweeping into epic crescendos, bass drums booming, the brass section bleating out. &c. A whole lot of good stuff here, in short.

1. Library Tapes - Like Grass Straws Against a Blue Sky
2. Daniel Bjarnason - Procession III: Red-Handed
3. Amiina - Sicsak
4. Fursaxa - Poplar Moon
5. Ólafur Arnalds - Loftið verður skyndilega kalt
6. Zoë Keating - Escape Artist
7. Clogs - To Hugo
8. Aaron Martin - Burl
9. Max Richter - Infra 4
10. Brian McBride - Supposed Essay On The Piano (B Major Piano Adagietto)
11. Goldmund - Bergen
12. Hildur Gudnadóttir - You
13. Erik K Skodvin - Etching an Entrance
14. Nils Frahm - Let My Key Be C (Thriller Edit)

Total time: 1:06:43

SoundCloud preview (see note at bottom of post)

The second and final mix in this series is entitled Nightmare Tracks which should be more or less self explanatory. The idea here was to create a mix filled with dread and menace, something incredibly dark, eerie, frightening. Music for nightmares, essentially. To that end I've selected only a small number of tracks (9 in the play list although it's actually 11, three of them are combined into one) but have simultaneously made this my longest mix yet. Magic! Or I just picked some really long tracks. The bulk of this mix is the B sides of Svarte Greiner's "Penpals Forever (and Ever)" and The North Sea's "Bloodlines." Both are comprised of three separate pieces that run together on the vinyl but for various reasons the former is condensed into just one track here and the latter is three distinct files.  Svarte Greiner is Erik Skodvin from Norway. The man knows how to create an atmosphere of pure menace with the most bare bones arrangements. This is an ancient, mysterious sounding album, full of creaking timbers and spluttering candles, shuffling corpses and long walks through pitch black crypts full of lingering ghosts. Chains clanks and rattle, voices call out illegible and buried beneath mournful, ragged drones and window panes clattering in the wind. Unbelievably spooky and incredibly dense.

The North Sea takes a more abrasive tact. Bloodlines is all crumbling cities and factories gone manic, decaying and blazing out of control. Brutally dark, this trio of tracks is a seething, ferocious mess of noise and decay, static, smoke, wheezing last breaths. Drumming by the ever-brilliant Mike Weis of Zelienople helps propel this full side piece in three movements into terrifying new places, his drums wooshing like demonic gasps and clattering like mutilated church bells.
Christopher McFall's "4" is the soundtrack to being lost beyond all hope in some fog filled cave network deep in the mountains. And perhaps you're not as alone as you thought. A low rumbling like distant thunder pervades throughout as failing radio static crackles slowly into oblivion until at last a creaking piano ushers the piece into silence. Thomas Koner's "Permafrost" is a magnificent piece of frost covered ultraminimalism. It takes a true master to make something so restrained so darned effective but Koner is a genius of atmosphere and the track feels immensely rich and fantastically eerie. Xela's track is off his new tape "The Sublime," the finest of the three in his now concluded cassette trilogy. "Eve's Riposte" sounds arcane, almost ritualistic in its darkness and droning menace, a gorgeously undulating sea of swirling dark noise and organ murk. World's End Girlfriend ends with what could be a more fucked up B-side from Venetian Snares' "Doll Doll Doll," a savage, unrelenting torture chamber of electro-skree and horror film samples. I couldn't think of a more terrifying or fitting way to end the nightmare.

1. Christopher McFall - 4
2. Thomas Koner - Permafrost
3. Black Swan - Part VIII
4. Xela - Eve's Riposte
5. Svarte Greiner - Side B
6-8. The North Sea - Counting Down the Days/Save Yourself/Revelations
9. World's End Girlfriend - The Offering Inferno

Total time: 1:51:56

(Trying out SoundCloud to see how I like it. Unfortunately my as-of-yet free account won't let me share the entirety of these mixes. Needless to say that's what the download link is for! Listen away to previews featuring a handful of tracks from each mix (6-14 of Mix 3, 1-5 of Mix 4)).

NOTE: for organizational purposes, make sure you have your media player set to organize these mixes by album or they'll be totally out of order! Something of a technophobe, I'm not sure how to make it otherwise.

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