I am proud to announce the release of my latest Palancar album: Yurushiiro.
I am a Wikipedia geek. Yes, I admit it. One of my favorite pastimes is to go to the Wikipedia home page, hit the random link, start reading a base article, and then see where I end up. Often times I pass through quite a bewildering sequence of topics, usually ending up in quite a different place than where I started. Which is, of course, half the fun.
During one of these virtual journeys, I came across this interesting page, which describes the traditional colors of Japan, including which colors were reserved for the nobility (“kinjiki”) versus those that the common person could use (“yurushiiro”):
To be honest, it had never occurred to me that a country might have a formal national color palette. Such an fascinating idea. And of course the colors spoke to me, very reserved, subtle, orderly, and ancient, as one might expect when describing Japan.
Which inspired a thought: what if I was to create a series of pure ambient pieces and then see which color reminded me of which track, or conversely, which tracks reminded me of which color? Sort of a weak form of synesthesia. Well, this album, called Yurushiiro, is the result of that process.
I hope you enjoy the music as much as I enjoyed making it.
I recently bought a new car. Nothing particularly remarkable about that, except that I noticed something while I was car shopping: you simply can’t buy a new car today that has a stock CD player. Not anywhere.
Think about that for a second.
For those of us roughly my age, we remember when all the pundits predicted that vinyl and magnetic tape would go the way of the dinosaur, and that this newfangled digital technology was going to take over the world. Sure enough, the compact disc (CD) invaded popular music and culture almost overnight, followed shortly thereafter by the digital video disc (DVD). For you youngsters who can’t remember a time before the internet, those are two different laser disc formats, one originally introduced for audio (and later extended to data), and the other originally introduced for video/audio (and later extended to data).
Except … these digital formats now seem to be themselves experiencing a mass extinction event themselves. The rise of smart phones and other portable devices along with Bluetooth audio has driven a stake right through the heart of laser discs. Nowadays kids play their music directly off their phones, and expect the TV and car stereo to be able to stream directly from their phones as well. And it works great.
But what about the impact on musicians? Is the idea of a physical disc dead and buried? Should artists even bother to release physical albums any more? Am I becoming the curmudgeon I always feared I would become?
While I do agree that becoming a grumpy old man is likely my ultimate destiny, I’m seriously considering that my next album will have no physical component whatsoever. Further, I’m seriously considering ignoring the 70 minute album length constraint that the audio CD spec imposed as an irrelevant anachronism. My next album may be 80 minutes long. Or 90. Or 150. Or 30. Who knows. Blasphemy, I know. But is it actually a good thing?
I’m interested in your thoughts. Is the physical disc a dead medium? Is something lost by moving on from it? Or is this the death of yet another artificial constraint? Should I as an artist continue to support physical media or am I just showing myself to be the old man I really am? Let me know what you think in the comments …
I often make it a habit at bed time to drift off to some good ambient music. I love giving this kind of music the sort of deep listen that can only happen when there are zero sensory distractions, just as much as I love the experience of ‘falling into the music’ as I glide off to dreamland. If you haven’t tried this yourself, I heartily encourage it. Just take care to ensure you aren’t listening at too high a volume.
Anyway, last night I was looking for something different to drift off to and decided to listen to some Robert Rich and semi-randomly picked Filaments, his extraordinary 2015 release.
Needless to say, I did not get much sleep, because the music transfixed me. I’m a long-time fan of Robert’s music and have heard pieces from Filaments many times, but never before have I listened end-to-end, nor have I ever before listened to this level of depth.
Folks, all I can say is that Robert Rich clearly qualifies as a genius. There are layers of structure in this music that can only be heard when you thoroughly immerse yourself in it. The bass lines that build slowly over minutes so you notice they repeat only when you focus on them. The astonishing vocal quality of Robert’s steel guitar play. And those scales! The mature and remarkably deft analog sequences that never seem to repeat and always sound fresh and new, familiar and yet exotic. I could go on and on.
Put simply, Filaments is a master work. If you haven’t heard it, you need to …
Check out this superb live-to-air concert put on by AirSculpture a few years ago on Chuck van Zyl’s Star’s End program:
Just wonderful ambient space music, with synthesizers everywhere. I love it!
Some more music I’m listening to while working. Today’s music is from space music group Auroric Dreams, which includes my friend Tony Gerber, a fantastic musician and extraordinary human being.
This group plays some highly original and lush electronic and guitar based space music. Sometimes quiet, sometimes energetic, but always spacious. Give them a listen!
Also, last night is the first time I heard Tony refer to himself as “Gerbtone”. I couldn’t resist:
I’ve recently been enjoying some of the recorded performances of various kinds of electronic music on YouTube. There is an artist named Rufes who has a studio to die for and plays some really interesting subdued techno. Not exactly ambient but it has the right vibe.
Cool stuff. Give it a listen!
A little music for those who want to get into the zone and stay there (yes, that is a software engineering reference). Today’s recommendation is some dark ambience by Canadian artist Red Fog called Zone of Avoidance.
This is a truly fascinating blend of lushness, mystery, and something slightly more sinister. Disturbing and soothing at the same time, if you can imagine. Sort of like the somewhat twisted return to nature and wilderness that occurs in a place after humans are forced to abandon it after a nuclear disaster. Hence the title.
Great music to work to, or for active listening, whichever you prefer.
Check it out!
Some more work music for you, this time coming from back in 2005. Back in that day, Scott Turner ran a weekly live electronic music program called Organbient, in which he played some of the deepest ambient music I’ve heard. It was a great community of artists and listeners alike. One of the coolest things that came out of that era was a compilation of longform ambient pieces that the regular artists contributed: the Organbient Longform Ambient Compilation Volume 1.
I can’t give you a link because this album is no longer available (it was released through the now-defunct Blue Water Records). But here is a small sampling of the artists:
An awesome lineup and simply wonderful ambient music.
Oh my goodness, I am stoked. Tonight one of my very favorite electronic artists will be performing live on-air on Chuck van Zyl’s incomparable Star’s End program: none other than Saul Stokes.
Saul has this distinctive voice that just stands out. Whenever I hear a Saul Stokes track I’ve never before heard, I can immediately tell it is him. I don’t know if it is the subdued low end, or the singular timbres he coaxes out of his gear, or the lush and slightly quirky melodies he conjures. Whatever it is, I love it.
Don’t miss this broadcast. If you’ve never tuned in before, tonight will be a great night to start! You can listen on the internet from xpn.org (see the link at the top).
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we live in magical times. Yes, the world is deeply flawed and divided right now, but when it comes to ambient music, there has never been a better time to be alive.
One of the artists I have recently discovered is North Hive, a Russian ambient, electronic, and new age artist who puts out some of the finest music around. Tonight, I’m listening to Gaia, a 2015 release of immense beauty and maturity.
If you like your ambient music refined and visual, you can’t go wrong with North Hive. Highly recommended.