The Unorthodox Violin Work of Darragh Morgan

Darragh

Photo by Frances Marshall.

Though he first picked up the violin in the context of Irish traditional music, and undertook classical music studies at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Darragh Morgan has long specialized in “new music.” It’s a vague term that encompasses 20th and 21st century music for orchestral and chamber instruments, but can also incorporate virtually anything else.

Over the years, Morgan has become a well-known figure in Europe’s new music community. In addition to his work as both a solo artist and a guest with various ensembles, he’s also a member of the Fidelio Trio with pianist Mary Dullea (to whom he’s married) and cellist Adi Tal. He’s recorded works by Philip Glass, Morton Feldman, Toru Takemitsu, Arnold Schoenberg, Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns, Michael Nyman, and many contemporary Irish composers.

Morgan’s latest album, For Violin and Electronics, is exactly what it says on the cover: six pieces, all by living composers, on which his instrument either converses with, floats in and around, or battles with electronic soundscapes that can be quite beautiful, or abstract and harsh, sometimes shifting from one to the other at a moment’s notice. “All the tracks have a fully notated, often virtuosic, live violin part which I had to approach learning just as I would Beethoven’s Violin Concerto,” Morgan says.

But each composer has taken a different approach to the electronic element of the work. In the cases of Jonty Harrison and Ricardo Climent, the composers of “Some of Its Parts” and “Koorean Air” respectively, the use of tapes requires Morgan to coordinate perfectly or fall out of sync. “Some of Its Parts” features scraping, rumbling, and percussive sounds, like someone rolling fist-sized iron balls around inside a piano as it’s wheeled back and forth across the stereo field. “Koorean Air,” by contrast, is all high-pitched squeals, chitters, and zooms, with Morgan’s violin offering horror-movie scribbles and scrapes.

Continue reading

The Tanzania Albinism Collective Turn Personal Pain Into Emotional Soul

Tanzanian Albinism Collective

Photo by Marilena Delli.

A delicate, hypnotic voice opens White African Power, the first album by Tanzania Albinism Collective, setting the tone for a record built equally on raw vocals, and lyrics that speak candidly of personal tragedy. “The world is hard, and I’m feeling defeated,” singer Christina Wagulu laments in Swahili. “Hatred, jealousy, and other emotions damage my heart / Disease weighs me down like defeat.”

The album’s 23 short songs create an atmosphere intimacy—as if the listener were eavesdropping on a gathering of friends. Far away from those who have shunned and persecuted them, the musicians are unguarded; they sing about the adversity they’ve faced without wallowing in self-pity. Their music is visceral, cathartic, and deeply personal.

Continue reading

Ten Modern Shoegaze Bands: A Primer

Rev Rev Rev

Rev Rev Rev

Given the recent reunions of Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Telescopes, and Swervedriver, collective interest in shoegaze appears to be approaching another peak. For the uninitiated: “shoegazers” were the mostly-English (or, in the case of Jesus and Mary Chain, Scottish) bands that emerged in the late ’80s and who paired wall-of-sound guitars with whispery, sweet pop vocals. The genre tag was initially a dis invented by the British music press—during performances, the musicians spent as much time looking at their sea of guitar pedals as they did the crowd.

As exciting as it is for fans of ’90s shoegaze and dreampop to have the opportunity to see and hear new music from the originators of the scene, the idea that shoegaze died in 1996 with the arrival of Britpop is a fallacy. Even though most of the bands from the original movement had broken up, their music lived on and was embraced in the ’00s by a batch of so-called “new-gaze” bands: Autolux, Loveliescrushing, Asobi Seksu, Serena-Maneesh, and others.

Even if the genre’s pioneers weren’t getting back together, there would still be plenty of great shoegaze records emerging from the underground. With advances in digital technology, which have made creating otherworldly effects easier than ever, a new breed of dreampoppers have surfaced over the past half-decade. While some reach back to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, others have incorporated elements of EDM, krautrock, post-rock, and indie rock to create their effect-laden songs.

Here are 10 of the most exciting groups in modern shoegaze.

Continue reading

This Week’s Essential Releases: Psych-Doom, Rampaging Pogo-Punk, & More

7-essential-600-5.26.17

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

Continue reading

Big Ups: Sondre Lerche

Sondre Lerche

Photo by Isabell N Wedin.

Sondre Lerche has been pegged a guitar-pop artist since his 2001 debut Faces Down. But his newest album, Pleasure, employs electronic elements liberally—particularly on opening track “Soft Feelings,” which leans heavily on beats reminiscent of New Order. That’s fitting; Lerche’s own tastes have increasingly skewed toward the electronic and, specifically, ambient scenes. It’s a fascination that he traces back to his work soundtracking the 2014 film, The Sleepwalker. 

“I’ve just had this appetite the last few years for a lot of ambient-type music,” the Norwegian singer/songwriter explains. “There’s lots of room for your own presence. Maybe as a contrast to a lot of songwriting that I make that has a certain structure and detail to its composition, I hunger now for music that’s different—that I can exist in and live in while I’m in it. I see it as a room that doesn’t end. There’s nothing that confines you. I really enjoy being inside that music…There’s a lot of good bands and artists that do things that are somehow spiritually related to what I do. But I don’t necessarily need to hear that all the time. I’m in it. I’m making my own twist on it.”

For his entry into Bandcamp’s ongoing Big Ups series, Lerche unpacked his love of soundscapes with five picks from that range from ambient jazz to ambient techno—all music that he praises as having a “very wide horizon.”

Continue reading