Second Childhood

Since I’m on the subject of ambient, atmospheric, cinematic-type records, thought I’d pass along another that’s been pulling me in lately: Second Childhood. It’s a collaboration between Hidur Gudnadottir, BJ Nilsen (he of Hazard and the brilliant Storm collab with Chris Watson), and Stilluppsteypa (try asking for those names at your local shop), came out in 2007 on the Quecksilber label (meaning you won’t likely find it at Best Buy–no one said this stuff would be easy to find, let alone pronounce). At any rate it’s a beautiful record–dark, moody, and low-key, though don’t think ‘quiet’ or ‘relaxing.’ Tension comes in waves, riding in on electronic washes, a slow-building rhythm (it’s subtle but it’s there…at times), and what sound like metallic echoes bouncing between empty cement walls. It’s a cavernous sound, haunting, dank, and shivering; it never pieces but does at times rumble, coming more from below than above. As cold and icey as it sounds much of the time (these guys are from Iceland, after all), it’s a lovely and beautiful album, one of my favorites from last year.

Type Records

Lately I’ve been growing more and more enamored with the label Type Records, a small indie experimental label out of the U.K. that specializes in moody, low-key, soundscape-y music. Think drones, quiet piano pieces, a few scratches and electronic glitches–plus a bit of folk-like guitar here and there, environmental sounds, and the occasional industrial grind. Perfect stuff for grey Sunday mornings or laid-back late nights, when in either case you want something low-key and borderline quiet but still possessing an edge–not just simple background sounds, and certainly not anything overly soft or New Age-y. As a general rule the music is subtle, but it’s also got a cinematic quality that widens things out and feeds the imagination. (If you’ve listen to Brian Eno’s abstract ambient albums you know the territory.) Favorites of mine so far include Goldmund, Ryan Teague, and a collaborative release from The North Sea and Ramses III (album cover pictured). Those first two links by the way have free MP3s behind them, so have at ’em.

James Blackshaw

Last night (2-5-08) I caught James Blackshaw at San Francisco’s Aquarius Records–hard to see the guy from the back of the room, but I managed to squeeze up front for a few minutes and fire off a few shots. If you haven’t heard the guy, he’s a young U.K. 12-string maestro in the John Fahey or Robbie Basho camp–a lush, cascading sound that’s both delicate and, in the right moments, intense. The site Download Music has a free MP3 download of the song “Running to the Ghost” if you’re curious to hear something.

The Feelies

The recently revamped indie blog Songs:Illinois has a YouTube Saturday feature that’s pretty cool, and among the recent treats was a clip of the Feelies playing “Crazy Rhythnms” at the New Jersey club Maxwell’s. Know the Feelies? This band rocked my world in the ’80s. Not sure when the clip is from, but it’s well worth checking out.