Tei Shi - Saudade EP Album ReviewTei Shi Saudade EP Self-Released (2013)Ever wanted a female artist with awesomely soulful vocals to make cool, interesting, and meaningful music? Now you have one. On her latest EP, Saudade, Valerie Teicher, aka Tei Shi, makes an impressive debut, exposing herself musically as well as emotionally, with powerful and lasting effect. The majority of Saudade is a cappella, with only minimal instrumentation and well-chosen electronic effects that highlight Tei Shi's stunning, cavernous voice. Low and versatile, her vocals, such as those on the EP's standout track, “Adder(f)all," vibrate in your ears with an immediacy second only to if she were physically present and singing directly into your ear. Punctuated with occasional dance beats, sparse percussion, plucked electric guitar, maracas, or bass synth melodies, her voice slowly encompasses you, wrapping itself around you like a fog and settling hooks into your heart with each subsequent layer of breathy harmony, before tugging on them repeatedly in cyclical patterns. Given the emotionality of her voice -- its notes of longing, anger, and passion—every loop, harmony, suspension, and resolution is amazingly spot-on, carrying with it the gravity and precision of choral music and evoking its same sense of controlled chaos.

Forest Swords Engravings Tri Angle Records (2013) It's been three years since Forest Sword's beautiful EP Dagger Paths was released -- enough time for some of us to forget about how awesome those tracks were and to write producer Matthew Barnes off as an occasional dabbler rather than forceful new figure. Fortunately, he's used that time well. His first full-length, Engravings, takes airy vocal samples and spaghetti western guitars and stretches them out over an expansive skyline, evoking an aerial view of monochrome industrial landscapes and overcast rocky beaches long abandoned by human investment or presence. Engravings inhabits the spaces we've left behind, pooling the essence of detritus together in celebration of the act of being. Sampled voices, percussion, and melodies are scraps littered about the countryside and united in the single cause of radiating their true potential rather than their perceived obsolescence. It all culminates in an utterly gorgeous and unique vision that combines modern technology and organic material as both means and message.
"Obviously everywhere has history, but when you grow up [somewhere] it contextualises it a lot more. It’s a lot more impressive when you can see physically where those things are. Thor’s stone, for instance, is a place in a village called Thurstaston. Local legend has it that it was used as a sacrificial place for Vikings and settlers and stuff. So to find all these things… it kind of felt right for me. And it came at a time when I maybe wanted that connection with my home. You get to a certain age where you want to reconnect with where you were born and where you grew up." - Matthew Barnes on "Thor's Stone" via FACT Mag

BRAIDS Flourish//Perish Arbutus Records Montreal-based indie band BRAIDS make music that one rarely encounters: music that is meant to be processed and digested, bit by bit, as opposed to gulped down in one large bite. BRAIDS' 2011 debut Native Speaker was a lush, layered, complex swirl of dreamy melodies, and while their sophomore album Flourish//Perish has a similar feeling, it is a longer record that allows for expansion upon their sound. Aside from the vague comparisons to post-rock/shoegaze/indie pop, it is difficult to put specific genre categorizations on BRAIDS. Each song on Flourish//Perish has its own tone and tenor, making it a bit hard to conceptualize; the overall effect is delicate, intricate, at times jarring, and alternately soothing.

Dim Past - Black Dolphin Album ReviewDim Past Black Dolphin Other Electricities / Roofless Records Dim Past probably isn't going to get too much DJ love for his new EP, Black Dolphin. That's not a statement about the quality of the music therein, mind you -- nor do I mean to suggest that it isn't danceable. The thing is that this lo-fi rager sounds like the shredded fragments of techno waveforms managing to escape from the confines of your local basement show's shitty PA speakers. Where many modern producers aim for precision and clarity, hoping to have their babies pushed out through Funktion-One speakers or blasted into miles of Euro festival goers, Black Dolphin is submerged under a dank ass layer of lo-fi resin more commonly found caked around Bay Area psych rock tapes and ultra-limited hardcore 7"s. I mention those unrelated genres because while there are certainly people out there making harsh techno (Regis and Marcel Dettman come to mind), it's been a while since electronic dance music has sounded this DIY; the record has the feel of Surgeon's Force+Form in terms of presentation. Case in point is lead track "Ghostlord Masterclock", a 4/4 stomper that shreds with the intensity of Jeff Mills' dystopian Waveform Transmissions. The track says something about the adrenal dump of techno in its rawest form; this is the way it sounds in your gut rather than your ears after hours of sweating under the glare of a nonstop kick drum pounding on the one. It also serves as a wonderful example of the American underground's turn towards EDM. Where once our oscillators churned out heaps of white noise into surrealist oblivion, recent years have seen those feedback loops start to wrap themselves around that instantly recognizable beat -- that not only harkens back to the club, but to the instinctual metronomic pulse on which we humans have based our movements since time immemorial.

 

John Lemke - People Do Album ReviewJohn Lemke People Do Denovali Records, 2013The world of Germany-born, Glasgow-based composer and sound designer John Lemke is a rich and varied one. Working in a variety of media, so as to enable him explore his fascination with music and "all things sonic", he has dipped his fingers into a variety of collaborative pies, ranging from live performance and film sound design, to work as a documentary composer for British television broadcasters such as the BBC. An accomplished manipulator of the recorded aural environment, Lemke seeks, in People Do, his debut solo album, to fuse the emotive elements from his film work with a sense of rhythm and space. With a stated aim of marshaling his abstract sonic palette to create a "danceable, electro-acoustic whole", the effect achieved is one of a highly visual journey that inhabits the realm of memory channelled and interpreted through objects and their collected histories. Lemke explains that his first inspiration was found in the "idiosyncratic sound world of his grandmother's piano. With a shimmering past in the silent film era of 1920's Berlin, its very fabric was full of anecdotes."
 

At certain times in the lives of those who listen, dreams, both in wake and at rest, can serve as a rich breeding ground of inspiration. Tapping into our subconscious can bring about flurries of sonic or visual cues from which to further develop ideas, and for artist-musicians like Christelle Gualdi of the solo electronic project Stellar OM Source, such a practice might even be the initial spark of a music video to a song you'd written. In describing the vision in her mind's eye, Gualdi explains:
"While waking up one morning, an image of a Japanese girl dressed in a kimono and walking along the edge of a swimming pool surrounded by fog appeared to me. This image became the inspiration point for "Polarity". I developed the abstract narrative arc from this conscious dreaming: the women, the kimonos, the water choreography and the reflective play of light. "As we shot, the pieces fell right into place. The set felt like an animated fashion shoot, exaggerated details in the exchange between the beautiful women of the water. A feel of mystery and expectation initiates the sequences. I needed a central character to direct the energy flow, and the girl in blue face became this. When she submerges underwater, we understand her role. The flashbacks explain more before the ballet begins. The object of their dance is revealed in the end: polarity as an exchange of beauty."
Gualdi's physical interpretation of this vision utilizes underwater cameras and minimal but rich abstractions, as if to capture the qualities of the subconscious in symbolic form. In the Q&A below, she further expands on this music video, both with regards to its concept, inspiration, and execution.

 

We've raved before about the visual work of San Francisco graphic designer and ambient electronic musician Tycho, aka Scott Hansen -- but how exciting that similarly-styled graphic designer and director Charles Bergquist has now been enlisted to turn both of their still image styles into moving image! Both Bergquist and Hansen are known visually for their use of overlaid imagery and washed out colors, and the video for "Ascension" possesses all of these elements. But unlike any hand-held video edited together by any ol' dream pop band with a penchant for Polaroid dreaminess, this is a well-executed, high-quality visual treat that feels pulled straight out of a fashion magazine universe. It also incorporates the best of both Bergquist and Hansen's graphical tendencies, most evidenced by the constant use of the sunset from Tycho's last release, Dive. The primary difference is that here, worlds of water are left behind, as listeners are lifted into mountains of dry sand. I might also add that it is likely the Ghostly International connection, but the slowly-expanding paint splotches used occasionally in this video are reminiscent of the genius abstractions from Matthew Dear's Headcage EP... and you should definitely view this in 1080p HD.

 

SALTLAND I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us Constellation Records (2013) On her debut album, cellist, vocalist, and composer Rebecca Foon -- otherwise known as SALTLAND -- creates a cosmic wasteland of sound and feeling. Through freeform string parts, spiritually reminiscent vocals, raw, distorted backdrops, and tribal percussion, the desolate and beautiful world of I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us emerges, entrances, and encourages contemplation.

 

Due the unfortunate fact that we are merely human and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) is just beginning its three-week film rampage, we've sifted through the Festival's gigantic catalog to come up with the best films of the bunch -- or so we suspect. SIFF is annually guaranteed to have a mixture of some of the best and worst films that one can see -- and these film recommendations come from the minds of three REDEFINE writers with good intentions. Yet at best, these selections are our most educated hypotheses, determined from a mixture of film industry knowledge and intuitions based on trailers. Below, we've grouped our selections for 2013 by world region. Stay tuned in the weeks to come, as we offer updates throughout the festival's progression, with general thumbs up and thumbs down summaries of the films we will painfully and enjoyably slog and float through, as well as one-off full-length reviews. Happy SIFFing!

Olafur Arnalds For Now I Am Winter Mercury Classics Imagine yourself walking down a deserted street. It's late in the day; the sky is dappled and mottled with clouds. The sidewalks are littered with the soggy remnants of December, slush and old receipts. Your thoughts uproot, displaced in time, remembering, projecting. A fine, chill mist falls; you turn your face to the sky, baptized like a thirsty young plant. For Now I Am Winter, Olafur Arnalds' fourth LP (and major label debut) is a poetic meditation on the coldest season. It sounds like a dubstep opera, with crisp electronic flourishes framing gorgeous orchestral arrangements (with the help of American composer Nico Muhly), and a trembling libretto by Arnór Dan Arnársson (of Agent Fresco), with a fragile ethereal quality similar to that of Sigur Ros' Jonsi. Tense minimalist strings counterpoint chamber music romance as Arnalds conjures feeling of regret, longing, desire, and wanderlust, with the final result being an elaborate reflection on the season, as complex and layered as real life. The record works best as a whole, but tracks like "Reclaim", "This Place Was A Shelter", or the title track serve as a fine illustration of this album's mission statement, and are fine places for the curious to begin. The music itself could be seen as the elements at work; biting winds, sleet, slush, and snow, while the operatic vocals serve as an inner dialogue.