Tag Archives: Erased Tapes

Album of the Day: Various Artists, “1+1=X”

With 10 full years of operation under their belt, Erased Tapes, the label known for their beautiful releases that often join contemporary composition with experimental electronics and ambient textures, has been celebrating for a full year, and 1+1=X is one of the fine results. While compilations are nothing new for Erased Tapes, this release is more of a collaboration than a simple collection of unrelated tracks. Contributing artists recorded their songs in Berlin’s analog Vox-Ton Studio, sharing space and instruments, which makes for exciting cross-pollination. Continue reading

Hatis Noit’s Experimental Vocal Music Mimics the Sound of Nature

Hatis Noit

Photos by Özge Cöne

At five years old, Japanese vocal artist Hatis Noit moved to Shiretoko in eastern Hokkaido with her family. The area is home to one of Japan’s most placid and beautiful parks, Shiretoko National Park. Growing up surrounded by nature would have a lasting effect on Noit, but not always for the better. “One time, I lost my way in the forest in Shiretoko,” she says. “It was such a scary memory. It was before sunset and it was getting darker and darker. I lost my way in the forest in the mountains. I was so scared, because if I couldn’t find the way…” she sighs deeply, trailing off without finishing her sentence.

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High Scores: Ben Lukas Boysen and Sebastian Plano’s “Everything” Soundtrack


Photo by Alexander Schneider.

I waver between thinking game-maker and animator David O’Reilly’s masterpiece, Everything, is something more than a video game and not a video game at all. Playing it feels much more like looking at a painting, or perhaps taking a psychedelic meditation retreat. In the game, the player takes turns controlling hundreds of individual objects and entities that are cartoonish abstractions of our own reality, from giraffes to microconidia to continents, clouds and eventually galaxies. Eventually, one is able to create madcap worlds-within-worlds where a murder of crows might dance with submarines beneath the ocean, or a planet-sized record player plunks out strange noises in space. (There are, interestingly, no human beings roaming O’Reilly’s worlds.)

Two elements lend this beautiful but absurd experience some real weight. The inclusion of hours of joyful and thought-provoking lectures from the great philosopher Alan Watts, and the expansive score from electronic musician Ben Lukas Boysen and contemporary classical composer/musician Sebastian Plano. Their pieces—anchored by Plano’s emotive cello and expanded by Boysen’s towering, organic ambient structures—are otherworldly and full of wonder. They swell and fade unexpectedly as the player tinkers, and they evoke something more than just beauty. They evoke awe. It is a remarkable experience, and the resulting Everything soundtrack—on the venerable Erased Tapes label—stands on its own as a startling piece of art. We spoke to Boysen and Plano via video chat, as they were drinking beers at Boysen’s home in Berlin.

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Ten Records that Blur The Line Between Electronic and Classical Music

Murc of Wagner

Murcof x Vanessa Wagner by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

Considering how closely aligned electronic and classical music have been for decades—from string-laden samples and Philip Glass-like synth grooves to questionable covers like Tiësto’s dopey trance anthem take on Samuel Barber—it should come as no surprise that line between the two has become blurred over time. In fact, it seems pointless to peg many of today’s artists to either.

“I have always been surprised to hear my albums classified as ‘ambient,'” says Polish composer Michał Jacaszek. “They may have ambient elements—like deep reverb or delayed textures—but I prefer an ‘electro-acoustic’ label.”

“I don’t think I’d ever classify my own music in any modern classical sense,” adds producer/12k founder Taylor Deupree. While he’s collaborated with the legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto several times (Disappearance, Perpetual), Deupree sees more parallels between traditional and progressive music forms in the work of his longtime labelmate, Kenneth Kirschner.

“Ken often uses the sounds of traditional classical music,” explains Deupree, “but with very modern and very minimalist compositions. I think that’s where the interest and strength lies in this type of music—where the inspiration comes from people like [Morton] Feldman and [John] Cage.”

That’s certainly been the case with a recent string of records from Mexican producer Murcof and pianist Vanessa Wagner. Last year’s Statea LP reinterpreted everything from John Adams to Aphex Twin, and this summer’s EP.02 pays tribute to Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and Morton Feldman without tarring the originals in techno-fusion tropes.

“The piano is the starting point of our project,” explains Wagner. “It’s important that electronic effects do not swallow its sound, even if it is sometimes distorted. Similarly, it also seemed very important to stay true to the scores of composers that we interpret.”

The same can often be said for post-classical provocateurs like Alarm Will Sound, the chamber orchestra famous for flipping Aphex Twin on his already twisted head. The following feature isn’t about concert halls invading the club, however, or vice versa. This is closer to the middle ground where it’s never clear what’s being “played” and what’s being “produced.”

Here are 10 essential classically-inclined electronic albums.

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A Second Act for the Penguin Café

Penguin Cafe

Few bands have been as difficult to categorize as England’s Penguin Café Orchestra. Their songs traversed folk, minimalist classical, and various indigenous styles, particularly from Africa, and showcased a delicate group interplay, the loose edges of which made the music feel even more human and vital. Founded in 1972 by composer and multi-instrumentalist Simon Jeffes and cellist Helen Liebmann, PCO were marked by shifting membership and instantly ingratiating tunes.

When Jeffes died of a brain tumor in 1997, that seemed to be the last of the Orchestra—and, strictly speaking, it was. But 10 years ago, Jeffes’s son Arthur reconvened some of his father’s old compatriots for a trio of memorial shows in London, then began a new group under the name Penguin Café, minus the Orchestra, to showcase both Simon’s classics and his own new tunes. The group self-released A Matter of Life… (2011) and The Red Book (2014), but their new album, The Imperfect Sea, comes out through the sharp-eared British experimental label Erased Tapes. (The album was one of Bandcamp’s Essential Releases the week it was released.) Broader-stroked and more sonorous of tone than his father’s work, The Imperfect Sea is nevertheless a frequently gorgeous successor to the Orchestra’s poky beauty. We caught up with the 38-year-old Arthur Jeffes, who was in the midst of a house renovation in Kentish Town.

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Rival Consoles Rises Above the Chaos with “Night Melody”

Ryan West
Ryan West. Photo by Lenka Rayn H.
“Most of my music has a big accident in it that I really like. I like risk.”—Ryan West

Ryan West likes chaos. To a certain extent, anyway. The producer, better known as Rival Consoles, clutches a cup of tea as he says this, looking at home in a bucolic Southeast London coffee shop. He’s just emerged from his studio down the street, a room filled with tangles of chords and gear that he jokes makes it look more like a deranged musical refugee center than a workspace.

West has been making music since 2007, at least in an official capacity. Then known as Aparatec, he was the first artist signed to Erased Tapes, which would go on to release albums by Kiasmos, Nils Frahm, and Ólafur Arnalds. Rival Consoles’ new mini album Night Melody (his fourth full release to date) underscores the label’s genre-gobbling ethos. Its six tracks unspool with an unhurried grace, gracefully skirting the lines between club and ambient music. From the slow-building title track, with its skittering dance beats and delicate synth passages, to the rat-a-tat rhythms of “Johannesburg,” Night Melody makes devlishly complex music sound remarkably simple.

Ryan West

You released Howl late last year and you’re already back with new music. I take being prolific isn’t an issue for you.

I’m not trying to make lots of work. I’m just in a period where I have lots of ideas that come out naturally. I want it to be a natural process. I’m just more in tune with what I want and how I work as an artist, after all these years of chaos.

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