Welcome to your #NewMusicMonday fix – a.k.a. The Melodic Monday. This week we’re serving up some downtempo cocktails. December has been unseasonably warm in many areas, so we’ve been chilling out with some ambient and electronic tunes from around the globe. Let’s get things started in Iceland, a region where cool applies to both the climate and the music scene.
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Kiasmos – “Swept” (Reykjavík, Iceland)
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2015 has been a stellar year for Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds: he scored a second acclaimed soundtrack for the BBC miniseries Broadchurch; he released an amazing instrumental album reimagining the works of Chopin; and just last month he gave the world yet another Kiasmos EP. If you’re a fan of experimental electronica that blends chill atmospheric layers with classical overtones, this is the one album you must hear this year. Kiasmos is the side project of Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen (of Bloodgroup) which they formed in 2009. The music is evocative and stirring, a yin-yang of soaring strings and rhythmic beats that fuse together beautifully.
The four-track Swept EP released November 20 on Erased Tapes Records. It’s available from the label’s online store, Ólafur Arnald’s website, and from iTunes. One of the few concert dates Kiasmos has announced for 2016 is a performance at the avant-garde Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee in early April.
Goldmund – “As Old Roads” (Portland, USA)
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You may not know the name of American ambient composer/pianist Keith Kenniff (aka Goldmund and Helios), but you’ve likely heard his music. It’s been featured in dozens of commercials, including Apple and Google. It’s the background music on your Facebook “look back” video. It’s in movie scores and is often heard as the “music bed” in between stories on NPR. Earlier this month, Kenniff’s music featured prominently in Mark Zuckerberg’s video preceding the birth of his daughter. If it seems like Kenniff’s work is ubiquitous, it’s because he creates incredibly moving melodies that connect the listener emotionally to a moment, whether it’s a product or a scene. This single is from his latest Goldmund album, Sometimes, which released last month on Western Vinyl. This brief soundcape is just over two-and-a-half minutes in length, but the peaceful feelings it conjures linger long after the song ends. Restless souls, rejoice.
Benjamin Verdoes – “Night Walk” (Seattle, USA)
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Another talented artist who makes music under different monikers is Benjamin Verdoes. When the Brooklyn-based Seattle musician is not touring with indie rock outfit Iska Dhaaf or substitute teaching at public schools in New York, Verdoes (formerly of the Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band) writes and performs his solo work – in both English and Somali. In 2014, Verdoes and his Somali-born wife relocated to New York City from Seattle along with the rest of Iska Dhaaf. The languid vibe on “Night Walk” is the mirror opposite of his group sound: where Iska Dhaaf excels in urgent, percussion-prominent rock, Verdoes’ solo work is relaxed and contemplative, awash in ambient layers. It’s the kind of hypnotic song that serves as a perfect late-night soundtrack. You can find it on his latest EP, The One & The Other, which released in September on Brick Lane Records.
Beacon – “Preserve” (Brooklyn, USA)
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And speaking of Brooklyn, that’s also home to our next group. Electronic duo Beacon recently released this first single from their upcoming second album, Escapements, due in February (CD on Feb. 5 and vinyl on Feb. 15) via Ghostly International. Fans of Thomas Mullarney III and Jacob Gossett can bask in their lushly chill vibes that shimmer with a subdued, percolating energy. As an added bonus, they’ve recruited drummer Rory O’Connor (Tycho, Com Truise) to work his percussion magic on the album.
This follow-up to 2012’s The Ways We Separate is available for pre-order from Amazon, iTunes, and the label’s online store. The band will launch a U.S. tour on February 4 in Chicago that runs through early March.
Tricky – “Diving Away” (Bristol, UK)
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Finally this week we have the latest from German trip-hop mastermind Tricky, with his new collaborative project, Skilled Mechanics. “Diving Away” – a version of Porno For Pyros’ 1996 song “Porpoise Head” – is the first track from the upcoming Skilled Mechanics album, due out January 22 on his False Idols label. It’s available for pre-order from his online store. Tricky launches a winter tour January 26 in Croatia that wraps up mid-March in Spain.
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