Group Listening – Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works, Vol. 2 (PRAH Recordings)

The second full-length from Stephen Black and Paul Jones is another testament to the Welsh duo’s impeccable taste. That’s apparent in eclectic covers assembled here, including takes on two outsider Can-con classics in Syrinx’s “Hollywood Dream Trip” and Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s “Sunset Village,” one from new-age legend Laaraji (“All of a Sudden”), and an offering from unheard-of-outside-Wales New Waver Malcolm Neon, among a half-dozen others.

It’s also obvious in the arrangements, which generally feature the two titular instruments, embellished by occasional flourishes of keyboard, guitar, glockenspiel, and subtle percussion, but always given plenty of room to breathe. It’s clearly a labour of love, the sort of affectionate reinterpretations that can only come from a deep and respectful understanding of the originals.

Reverent and playful in equal measure, Selected Works Volume 2 is a work of beauty in its own right, a collection of thoughtful, inventive instrumentals. Better still, it doubles as an entryway into the catalogues of a diverse assortment of ambient, new age, and otherwise left-of-centre artists, a rich vein of sounds waiting to be unearthed.

Podcast: The AM, Jan. 24, 2022

This week’s episode of The AM (also streaming at CJSW.com): I didn’t notice that the 400th episode of the AM had come and gone, but celebrating number 402 works just as well. I shared the first song ever played on The AM, and there’ll be a Spotify playlist of the first episode’s tracklist available sometime shortly—visit theam.ca for that one. But, we’re always looking forward, and this week’s mix of cosmic synthesizers, melodic art-rock, and psychedelic surf is your recommended way to ease into the last week of January.

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The Hologram People – Sacred Ritual to Unlock the Mountain Portal

A satisfying slab of instrumental psychedelia and earthy kosmische from the UK. Acoustic guitars add bright textures, while walls of fuzz and cosmic synths aim to pierce the veil between this world and the great beyond. “Planet Sahara” makes the Sabbath influence explicit, although The Hologram People are less spooky, the buoyant grooves of tracks like “Pray to the Maypole Witch” and “A Seventies Void” indebted as much to Air’s hazy nostalgia and the prog-inflected library music of the Space Oddities series as to any lords or darkness.

Barring the extended ambient interlude of “Lord Shiva’s Mother Ship”, The Hologram People’s incantations are more concise than the mouthful of an album title would suggest. They may be opening the portal, but they aren’t leaving you adrift.

Andrew Wasylyk – Dreamt In The Current Of Leafless Winter

A gorgeous piece from Scottish musician Andrew Wasylyk, billed as “an attempted hypnagogic fog of meditation & possibility.” The 16-minute track builds slowly, a cloud of gentle twinklings and meandering melodies eventually coalescing into an insistent drum pulse, rising piano arpeggios, and inquisitive saxophone. The accompanying video, directed by Tommy Perman (of last year’s wonderful Positive Interactions project) ties the music to a multilayered, ever-shifting view of nature, echoing the song’s warmth in a bramble of soft light, tangled branches, and gently distorted reflections. The song and video both are bathed in twilight, comfortable, captivating, and kaleidoscopic.