Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Art + Sound: Soundwall Debuts Nova - art you can touch to stream music...

With material from a media release:

Art + Sound
Soundwall Debuts Nova
art you can touch to stream music...

I don't usually get into techie subjects, but this one was too supercool to pass up. Soundwall is an innovative company that manufactures flat-panel speakers made of aluminum artwork.

The Technology
The entire surface of a Soundwall is a speaker. The Nova uses Distributed Mode Loudspeaker (DML) technology to produce brilliant sound. Exciters mounted on the back of the aluminum art vibrate the surface to produce incredible, full-range sound throughout your room.

You Choose The Look
There are over 150 existing works of art to choose from in a variety of sizes. You can also upload your own pieces, including artwork or photographs, for a one of a kind design. The image is printed on the aluminum using a dye sublimation process that creates crisp, vivid images.
Artist Sam Day in his studio
Add Lighting
You can add dynamic ambient backlighting, with a number of presets to choose from. You control the lighting from a mobile app.

Interactive Magic Touch
You touch the screen to play, pause and skip songs.

The Details:
It's compatible with both iOS and Android devices, with a simple WiFi connection and a built-in computer for app functionality.

• Price: Starting at $900USD.
• Find out more at the link 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently released: no:carrier - Broken Rainbow; Songs for an Apocalyptic World (Independent - November 11 2016)

Recently released:
no:carrier - Broken Rainbow; Songs for an Apocalyptic World
(Independent - November 11, 2016)

Buy it on iTunes 

Just what is Electro-Noire, you ask? Judging by this latest release from San Francisco's no:carrier, it's stylish, sophisticated, and atmospheric. no:carrier's sound is elevated by pure, melodic vocals over eletronic noise that buzzes, shudders, and pulses underneath its hypnotic sway.

“We can’t be compared easily. We have our very own sound that includes elements from several styles – from Dark Wave to Synthpop, from Acoustic to Electro,” says Chris Wirsig, main songwriter and producer.

Founded in 1995 in Germany as a duo between lead singer Cynthia Wechselberger and songwriter/producer Chris Wirsigj, the band has added four more singers in a line up that's been fairly stable since 2001, including Lauralee Brown and Liza Marie Sparks of San Francisco and Scilla Siekmann and Bobby Halvorson of Los Angeles.

Broken Rainbow is no:carrier's fourth full-length album, and it covers the murky territory you'd expect. Violins and growly guitar lines weave in and out of the melody on Your Heroin.

Your heroin don't work no more
The needle's are all broken
Too much is left unspoken
Drowned forever more.

It's typical of the sense of invention that characterizes the collection of tracks. Little Death is another of the more melodic songs. The title track - Broken Rainbow - is instrumental, with a haunting melody that has echoes of Asian tonalities.

Sometimes you wonder if the effect is slightly tongue in cheek - as in the "creep mix" of Here's To You, with desolate, dismal vocals and arrangement over lyrics like

Here's to you
Here's to happiness
Here's to good times and bad
To being happy and sometimes sad
To every drop of rain 
Falling down your pretty face...

When you think of it, Bad Moon Rising was a dichotomy in the original version - solemn, down lyrics over that catchy country rock. The no;carrier version simply adds the creepy piano arrangement the words deserve. Other tracks include The Man Who Drew Cats, a song about Louis Wain, a man famous for his illustrations of anthropomorphic cats.

Electronica at its finest loses the labels and becomes simply compelling music, and that's the effect of this intriguing release.

Websites: www.nocarriermusic.com, www.facebook.com/nocarriermusic,
www.twitter.com/nocarriermusic, www.soundcloud.com/nocarriermusic

Recently released: Danophone - Rerun (Independent - 2 December 2016)

Recently released:
Danophone - Rerun
(Independent - 2 December 2016)

Danophone is the musical side project of Danish science journalist Carsten Nielsen. Rerun is his debut release.


The whole album has a slightly melancholic bent that is somewhat ironic, given that a Danophone (“Danish speaking by birth or adoption”) means you’re living in the “world’s happiest country” according to the United Nations. The city of Aalborg in northern Denmark, where he lives was recently named the Happiest City in Europe.

Frightened For is an an acoustic pop sound with a swingy groove and energy, wrapping a cautionary tale in a catchy tune with a nice hook in the refrain - It's you I'm frightened for.



A lush, layered instrumentation with strings/keyboards and a busy finger picking acoustic style bolsters vocals that are somewhat limited in range and expression on Meet In The Middle. It's a formula that works well.

On Copenhagen Club, the mood turns to straight up rock'n roll in a stripped down, melodic vein. It's an energy he harnesses equally well on City Of The Kings, a rollicking country rock tune.

Some of the songs sound like something you might've heard on Top 40 AM radio in the 1970s, like Arrested or Written In The Sand, with ear grabbing hooks and an organic groove. Tracks like Turn Blue and The Whole Truth venture into pure roots country territory. Nation Of Two is a plaintive country-rock ballad with lyrics that reminisce about love.
Danophone aka Carsten Nielsen
Rerun, the title track, is a stand out, with soaring harmonies over a jumpy and insistent rhythm and a contrapuntal guitar line. The nicely layered effect works well.

I'm not sure what's going on with Danish journalism, but one of the back up musicians is fellow journalist Tino Pedersen. Their friendship goes back to their teenage years in high school and the two of them have performed side by side in other bands and duos as “Capones” and “Syndikatet”. Other contributions include drumming from award-winning jazz and rock talent Bertil Bille and mixing & mastering assistance from DJ Elias Bille.

In any genre, it's high calibre musicianship and a nice sense of the songwriting hook that propels this collection of modern pop.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Food, Travel & Connections: A Sourdough Story

Food, Travel & Connections:
A Sourdough Story

Sourdough as a universal connection? For Arianna Sikorski, the idea came about as a natural development.

She's taking part in a unique 12-month Master of Management in International Arts Management degree, a program offered through HEC Montréal Business School, Southern Methodist University’s Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship division (USA), in collaboration with SDA Bocconi School of Management (Italy). The program includes one four-month session at each of the three partner institutions in Dallas, Montreal and Milan plus a 10-day campus at the Universidad de los Andes School of Management in Bogotá, Colombia.

For Arianna Sikorski, currently in the research phase of working through the program, the focus has been on thinking about the links between food, culture, heritage, and how the latter are exchanged with others in modern society.

Arianna was raised in Alaska, and has traveled extensively over the last couple of years. "It's coming from my travels," she says.

She recalls ending up in New Zealand some time ago on a working holiday. "I brought with me a sourdough starter," she explains. But, it wasn't just any sourdough starter. It was a culture that had been passed down in her family for more than a century. "Sourdough is part of my childhood."

Sourdough, if you're not in the know, is actually dough that has been fermented by using lactobacilli and yeast. You might have had sourdough bread in an upscale restaurant, and some places -- like San Francisco -- are famous for their sourdough starters. It is a process that has been used for millennia to make bread, and is often used to bake rye bread. The oldest sourdough bread ever found dates back to 3700 BCE and experts believe the process actually began thousands of years before that.

What Arianna discovered was that the sourdough -- something she could share and pass on, and which, not incidentally, was allowed into the country legally by customs -- became a natural way to connect with the New Zealand family she was staying with. Blueberry pancakes became her favorite way of sharing the bounty, although the process did lead to a lot of experimentation with the sourdough too.


"The sourdough really started taking on a life of its own."

When she made it to Iceland, she tried geothermal baking, which uses hot spots in Iceland's surface crust to harness the heat bubbling underneath. Hot springs can reach 100°C or 212°F, and volcanic areas can generate temperatures close to 200°C or 400°F.

Other culinary adventures have involved turning the sourdough into classic French patisserie, and adding local flavour in Chile. "I made empanadas down there. We made a whole fusion of sourdough and empanadas."

The exchanges began to intrigue her all on their own as a form of cultural fusion -- each side bringing something, literally, to the table. "That sense of connection became a growing interest."

Food is a form of culture that speaks to everyone. "It's quite a powerful medium for understanding -- and a fun one," she says. "It's an immediate connection."

Once she heard about the program, it was a natural fit and a productive environment for artistic exploration of the idea. The end result remains to be seen -- although it is sure to be tasty.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Downtown Mexico: Stay In A Palace In Historic Mexico City

From a media release:

The Downtown Mexico
Stay in a former palace in the historic centre of Mexico City

Colonial 17th-century former palace sits on a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Stylish rooftop terrace with pool and Jacuzzi
Bohemian-chic stone-forge stairways and red volcanic walls

Make a Reservation

MEXICO CITY - Built in the 17th century, Downtown Hotel is an historic, former palace providing 17 beautiful suites - some with attractive wrought-iron balconies overlooking the street, others facing the courtyard. Other charming features include a bar and swimming pool on the rooftop with city views and all within just two blocks of Mexico City’s central square, El Zocalo.

The red volcanic rock of the walls, the wooden beams, vaulted ceilings and handmade clay floor tiles lend a dramatic sense of history to this delightful residence. High above the city bustle, relax by the pool on Downtown Hotel’s rooftop and savour a drink from the bar.

For each of their properties, Grupo Habita use a local team and integrate the local culture into the design concepts. Such was the case when lovingly renovating the Downtown, one of the oldest residences in the area that still maintains this particular Mexican vice regal style. The property blends elements of colonial style with local, indigenous culture. Characteristics such as ornate detailing around the windows of the facade and a stone-forge staircase with intricate handrails sit alongside red volcanic rock walls and handmade cement tiles. The 17 rooms and suites possess a stripped-back, bohemian-chic elegance.

Located in the central balcony of the palace of the Countess of Miravalle, is the breakfast patio and lobby of downtown, a unique space that lets you enjoy the 17th century colonial architecture and the fresco 'The Holocaust', by muralist Manuel Rodriguez Lozano. In this area guests can enjoy breakfast and access to their rooms.

The large terrace has spectacular views of the skyline of the historic center, with its churches, Torre Latinoamericana and the Casino Español, among others. It is the perfect place to hold events and to relax with a drink.

The pool terrace has a pool, a jacuzzi and a bar that let you enjoy the best views and the best weather.

A short walk from Downtown Hotel and you are in El Zocalo Square bordered by the cathedral, Palacio Nacional, and the ruins of the Aztec Tenochtitlan, including the Templo Mayor. Well worth a visit is The Mercado de Xochimilco, as is the Museo Castillo de Chapultepec overlooking the city.

Address: Isabel La Católica 30, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06002 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone: +52 55 5282 2199

Jazz CD Release: Saxophonist/Composer Miguel Zenón releases Típico February 10 2017 on Miel Music

From a media release:

Internationally Acclaimed Saxophonist/Composer Miguel Zenón releases intimate new recording Típico 
February 10, 2017 on Miel Music

Zenón’s 10th recording as a leader celebrates his longstanding quartet with Luis Perdomo, Hans Glawischnig, Henry Cole

Pre-order/Buy the CD

Miguel Zenón’s new album, Típico, is above all a celebration of his longstanding quartet. His past several releases have generally fleshed out that core unit with additional instrumentalists as Zenón has looked outward to explore various aspects of his Puerto Rican heritage. This new album feels more intimate. Its focus stays closer to home, with nods to Zenón’s own personal and professional life as it zeroes in on what makes his band unique.

“I was thinking about what this band and the guys in the band mean to me as I was writing the music,” he explains. “I kept going back to this idea of us developing this common language that identifies us as a band.”

That language has been developing for more than a decade. Pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Hans Glawischnig have been with Zenón since the turn of the millennium; Henry Cole joined the band in 2005. Their language is thoroughly fluent modern jazz, with all the instrumental prowess and rhythmic and harmonic complexity that that implies. But the dialect they’ve created together through the years is distinctive.

“‘Típico’ refers to something that’s customary to a region or a group of people,” Zenón says. “Or something that can be related to a specific group of people. And when I was writing the music, I was thinking about music that identified us and this band.”

Each of the album’s final three tracks, Zenón notes, was composed around a solo or signature rhythmic line that one of the band members had played before. “My approach was more systematic on those three compositions specifically. But the whole record essentially is about representing the sound of the band. The sound of our band.”

The album opens with “Academia,” a tune inspired by Zenón’s teaching at New England Conservatory, where he serves as part of the jazz faculty. “One of the great things about teaching at NEC is that I get the opportunity to create a personalized curriculum for each of my private students, depending on their needs and on what I feel they should be working on. So I find myself having to come up with new exercises constantly, in order to keep our interactions interesting and challenging. This composition is built around various harmonic and rhythmic exercises that I developed with some of my more recent students at the school.”

The second track, “Cantor,” honors Zenón’s friend and frequent collaborator Guillermo Klein. “Gullermo’s music has a very personal voice, something very unique. With this piece I was trying to convey some of what I feel are his most interesting qualities as a composer, like the lyrical character of his melodies and the very nuanced harmonic movement of his pieces. He also has very particular way of organizing the 3/4 bar, which he breaks down into three bars of 7/8 and one bar of 3/8. The piece touches on this a bit towards the end, sort of as a way of tipping my hat to a great friend and musician.”



The third and fourth tracks both stem from Zenón pondering what gives a particular song a folkloric feel. “Ciclo” emphasizes melody and rhythm, Zenón taking “a melody that is meant to sound very folkloric — a bit simpler harmonically and delineating a very specific beat” and building a complex extended cycle around it using smaller, interlocking rhythmic cells.

 “Típico” approaches its folkloric aims harmonically. “There’s a harmonic cadence that is very common in Latin American music, especially music in the Caribbean. Something that revolves around a minor key and then slides down, going ‘Subdominant Minor – Tonic Minor – Dominant – Tonic Minor.’ A very simple cadence, but one that is very unique and effective. It’s always caught my ear because I’m always on the lookout for things that serve as sort of musical connecting threads, things that makes me feel that the music from all these different countries and cultural expressions is somehow connected and coming out of the same combination of elements. I built this specific composition around this cadence, and called it “Típico” in reference to this Pan-American idea.”

“Sangre Di Me Sangre” is a tune the quartet has been playing for a while now, a balladic tribute to Zenón’s 4-year-old daughter, Elena, written before her first birthday. “I was sitting in this park with her,” he recalls. “She was playing around and I sat down and sketched out the song on my notepad.” Zenón wrote the piece first with lyrics, then orchestrated it for the quartet, featuring Glawischnig’s bass both on a sprightly introductory melody played in unison with Perdomo and on a solo meant to convey a singing quality.

Glawischnig is also featured on “Corteza,” its melody derived from Zenón’s transcription of his bass solo opening the track “Calle Calma” on the 2009 Zenón album Esta Plena. It, too, has a balladic feel, with lyrical solos from Zenón and Perdomo leading to a closing uptempo restatement of the theme.

The Perdomo feature “Entre Las Raíces” (“Amongst the Roots”) is more fiery, emphasizing two key facets of the pianist’s musical personality. The intricate melody he and Zenón whip through together was transcribed from a Perdomo solo on “Street View: Biker,” the opening track on Perdomo’s album Awareness. But this arrangement opens with Perdomo playing wild and free, and Zenón’s alto solo when it comes reveals a free side of his own, veering more toward Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler.

“The piece is very free in terms of the way we deal with the improvised segments,” says Zenón. “Luis always talks about listening to Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor at the same time when he was growing up in Caracas, and always having a foot in this freer, avant-gardish world of jazz. And when you hear him play on that track, it sounds that way. For that piece specifically, he really sounds like he’s 100 percent in his element.”

Cole’s playing is suitably free on “Entre Las Raíces” as well, but his featured track, “Las Ramas” (“The Branches,” Cole’s own debut album having been titled “Roots Before Branches”), required more discipline. “I wrote the piece around this figure that he has been developing over the last few years and plays all the time,” says Zenón. “The piece is very difficult to play — sort of like an etude for the drums, pretty much. And I know he worked very hard on it. Even though the original idea came from him, he worked very hard on making it precise and making it clean, and really sounded amazing on this track.”

It’s no accident that the final three songs are named for parts of a tree. “I was thinking of the band as a tree,” Zenón acknowledges. “And thinking of myself as the watcher. I mean, I’m part of it also. But mostly I’m observing these amazing musicians night after night, and how together they kind of make up this living organism.”

Zenón is onto something with that metaphor. The spotlight cast by Típico illuminates how alive his quartet’s music has always been, while never ceasing to evolve and grow.

Miguel Zenón 
February – March 2017 Tour Dates
• Thursday, February 9 – La Nouvelle Scene, Studio, TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Festival, Ottawa, Canada
• Friday, February 10 - Villa Victoria Center for the Arts - Boston, MA
• Saturday, February 11 - Annenberg Center Live,  Philadelphia, PA
• Tuesday – Sunday, February 14 - 19 - Village Vanguard, New York, NY 
• Wednesday, February 22 - The Loft at UCSD - San Diego, CA
• Thursday, February 23 - Kuumbwa Jazz Center - Santa Cruz, CA
• Friday – Sunday, February 24 - 26 - SFJazz Center, Joe Henderson Lab - San Francisco, CA
• Wednesday, March 1- Cornish College of the Arts, Earshot Jazz - Seattle, WA
• Thursday & Friday, March 2 & 3 - Dazzle Jazz, Denver, CO
• Sunday, March 5: Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society,  Half Moon Bay, CA
• Tuesday, March 7: Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
• Wednesday, March 8:  Jazz Kitchen, Indianapolis, IN
• Thursday – Sunday, March 9 - 12 - Jazz Showcase, Chicago, IL

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

CD Review: von Konow - Lieder (Independent, Jan 14, 2017)

CD Review:
von Konow - Lieder
(Independent, Jan 14, 2017)

Buy the CD

It's hard to put this solo release by Marko von Konow into a specific category. There are shades of classic 80s synth pop and dance music, there's glam and there's lush orchestration. Above it all, his technically accomplished vocals flesh out the sound with lyrics about love and life.

Von Konow spends his time going back and forth between Helsinki, Finland, and sunny Alentejo, Portugal, which may account for the diversity of influences.

Von Konow sees the work as a synthesis of his journey through the music word, free as a solo act to explore songwriting. The words typically tell stories. Many of the sounds, like Cosmic, have an anthemic element that sticks in your head. Others, like Horses Run With Me, meander through several moods.

At times, the beats have a rougher edge. In Heartbeat, the rhythms have a harder edge, his voice smoothly melodic over a stuttering beat. Dream includes fuzzy guitar lines that add a note of tension.



Hello has a cool, spacey vibe, full of breathy air and atmosphere. It's his vocals that make the elements coalesce into a jazzy groove. The track is a highlight of the album, where the emotion of the song matches the song structure in intensity.

Castaway is another great track, its unexpected phrasings tripping over a lush pop arrangement. The key is the sincerity of his delivery - that's what carries the songs. Illusions has a groovy kind of retro feel that builds in layers over a twangy guitar line. He's got a great sense of song structure, and how to make the familiar sound fresh.

Members:
Marko von Konow, vocals, keyboards and programming; Timo Vikkula, Guitars; Tommi Pietiläinen, Guitars; Jari kääriäinen, Keyboards; Paco Halonen, Bass guitar; Ville Särmä, Drums
Production: Marko von Konow / Vild Music

Be Sociable:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/vonkonowmusic
Instagram: vonkonowartist

Watch the "Horses Run with Me" video (Filmed on the beaches of Alentejo, Portugal. Produced by Tommi Pietiläinen and Hannu Pyyhtiä and starring beautiful Johanna Öman.):