četvrtak, 14. veljače 2013.

The Balustrade Ensemble - Capsules (2007)

Steampunk-ambijentalna muzika - kao da je napravljena u viktorijansko doba s instrumentima od kojih su neki iz 23. a neki iz 19. stoljeća. Muzika koju bi radili u prošlosti da su znali da postoji vremenski stroj.
Evo što je slušao Jules Verne dok nije bio pri sebi.


Capsules' ten ethereal settings conjure Victorian-styled universes where music boxes, rickety keyboards (mellotron, orchestron, claviola, celeste), and strings re-animate the nightmarish current burbling below the surface of the Grimm brothers' folk-tales. Add elements of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and The Brothers Quay to the mix and you've entered The Balustrade Ensemble's curiosity shop and its cluttered shelves of weathered timepieces.- textura.org

The Balustrade Ensemble makes music from another time, but one that never really existed. It's an imaginary world of creaky floors, dusty furniture and sepia-toned landscapes illuminated by distant strings and tinkling music boxes. The music is largely instrumental with the angelic voice of Wendy Allen, drenched in reverb, occasionally drifting in. It's a sometimes spooky world, but curious and entirely enchanting.
The Balustrade Ensemble is based in San Francisco with members involved in other, separate projects. Grant Miller is the guitarist and principal songwriter, with Scott Solter and Matt Cunitz on keys, Rich Vaughan on cello, Ryan Rosenberg on pedal steel and Wendy Allen on vocals. Scott Solter is the accompanist and engineer.
The Balustrade's music has been called "steam punk," a term used to describe a time when steam still powered everything, mixed with more futuristic elements of sci-fi and fantasy. But the band describes its sound as "an underwater haunted bird sanctuary kaleidoscope" and says they "believe listening need not be difficult to be compelling." Their debut release is Capsules on the Dynamophone label.
- www.npr.org/

It would be easy to believe that composer/guitarist Grant Miller, the creative force behind the San Francisco-based band the Balustrade Ensemble, grew up in one of the city's old Victorian houses listening to grandfather clocks chime and music boxes tinkle. "Victorian" is not a word that reviewers of contemporary popular music often get to use, but it crops up continually in descriptions of the Balustrade Ensemble's music. That music is instrumental (group member Wendy Allen's soprano voice is employed wordlessly) and ambient. At times, Miller and his fellow musicians work up arrangements that employ melodic elements and stop not far short from being structured enough to constitute songs, but other tracks on the album are more soundscapes reminiscent of the electronic background music pioneered by Brian Eno in the 1970s. The sepia-toned photographs in the CD package contribute to the album's turn-of-the-(19th)-century tone, even if the music is actually being played using some keyboard instruments that would not be invented for some time after.- allmusic.com

Mandible Chatter were amongst my favourite American purveyors of abstract music. The string of releases they produced between 1992 and 2003 were characterized by a restless wandering between musical poles, from murky, subterranean dronescapes to Fahey-esque Appalachia to psychedelic folk and many uncharted points inbetween. Grant Miller, who is half of Mandible Chatter, is also the composer of the music on this charming CD by The Balustrade Ensemble. Guitarist Miller is joined here by Scott Solter (of Tarantel and Charles Atlas), vocalist Wendy Allen and a crew of instrumentalists on piano, cello, pedal steel, mellotron, orchestron, claviola and celeste. Wrapped in a nice digipak sleeve that exudes a certain 4AD-Records-at-the-end-of-the-80's feeling, 'Capsules' continues an evolutionary thread in Miller's music that goes back at least as far as Mandible Chatter's 1995 CD 'Grace', the point at which meticulous psych/folk arrangements started to fight for prominence with the dark atmospheric abstractions that had previously dominated the MC sound.
One of the titles here, "The Museum of Sleep" is taken from the Quay brothers, which is both appropriate (in that there's a dusty, antique air to many of these compositions) and misleading (in that the Quay's soundtracks are often aggressively atonal, a quality not found to any degree on this disc). The opener 'Glorianders' sets the mood with a fragile melody sung wordlessly in a strange, warbling tone, all the background arrangements taking on the feel of a slightly skewed music box. 'The Drowning Calm' sounds much as it's title would imply, pastoral guitar plucking pitched against odd, bubbling overtones. 'Synnove Skeie', 'A Long Fetch Over' and 'Crushed Pears' swim further out into shape-shifting drones and harmonic soundmasses. The album’s centrepiece 'Incarnadine' is a perfectly straightforward, bittersweet guitar/piano number and, for me,.the disc's highlight, stripping the electronic processing away and letting the acoustic timbres shine.
Each piece has it's own personality but fits perfectly into the whole, and there's not a weak moment to be found. There's a certain balancing act involved in creating music like this - one false step and everything can collapse into the mire of sickly sentimentality and bogus nostalgia. The Balustrade Ensemble avoid this pitfall by means of subtlety and a certain lightness of touch, an unwillingness to over-arrange and over-produce. The group itself says ‘Listening need not be difficult to be compelling’, and while the noise-mongering curmudgeon in me feels a building urge to argue, this CD makes a fairly convincing demonstration. Anyone lamenting the lack of new Mandible Chatter material in recent years (and it’s already been a half-decade since their almost unheralded 2003 disc ‘Of Foreign Lands and People’) would do well to check this out ASAP. Very highly recommended. - www.heathenharvest.com/

 The Balustrade Ensemble are an ambient-pop group whose album Capsules may remind you of the tunes that are played inside keepsake music chests and snow globes. The vintage tint of the keyboards played by Scott Solter sound like the leafy flaps of a harpsichord played in Mozart's time, and the luminous glide of the guitar chords made by Grant Miller produce lush dreamscapes that move with a liquidity fluorescence. It seems as if these songs were synchronized to the movements of a school of mermaids. The songs are draped in shags of pedal steel, cello, and lacy piano keys with the celestial pitch of singer Wendy Allen chiming in and melding into the melodic fabric so there really aren't lyrics just vocal sounds. This is an album that transcends genres similarly to Enigma and Andrei Lanes. The music travels to a destination that the listener knows will involve magical happenings and enter into a desirable world.
Unlike Enigma, the music feels warm blooded like it was made by humans for human's pleasure. "Glorianders" opens the curtains to an Atlantis-like underworld of free flowing motions and gorgeous paraffin soundscapes. "The Drowning Calm" is soothing and delicate like the music from a child’s toy chest. The angelic ambience feels like a toddler's playground filled with innocent beauty. The aquatic motions of "Tangle In Delirium" is impaled by oriental-tinged symphonies, which create circular motions of enchanting fields and exotic tones that enter into a private world. The textures feel ancient and the wavelengths seem ethereal. The shimmery acoustics of cellist Rich Vaughan and pianist Liam Singer are strategically clipped by pedal steel player Ryan Rosenberg and keyboardist Matt Henry Cunitz whose shearing creates sonic parfaits of Icelandic castles with a jejune twinkle.
The folk hues and ambient-pop dews of "Incamadine" are marinated in harp-like tones, and the murky daze of "Synnove Skeie" produces an eerie wilderness. The orchestral vistas of "Fall Away Into Darkness" are worthy of Enya with a suspension of ambient cello loops and scenic guitar passages. The iridescent keyboard sails of "The Museums of Sleep" are friendly and open, while the techno-visions illuminating "A Long Fetch Over" sound like they contain some mystical secrecy. The sonic bearings of "Crushed Pears" are dreamy and the gentle ambling guitar chords of "Szol A Zene" are distilled in refracting angles and eclectic sound effects that resonate like crushed glass.
The music continually travels like it is taking the listener to some place special in mind. The album moves through magically glowing passages that induce pleasure. It’s interesting that the album is called Capsules because each song encapsulates the listener in a fantasy-like compartment that aurally projects visually pleasing lands. With Capsules, you don't need to take a plane to enchanting lands because The Balustrade Ensemble’s music does that for you. By the conclusion of the album, you will have felt like you have taken a trip to a foreign land, maybe even from another time, and have come back feeling refreshed and having sensations awakened that you never even knew that you had. - Susan Frances
 Picture of The Balustrade Ensemble

 The Balustrade Ensemble are a different proposition altogether. In September 2007, Dynamophone Records unveiled the lavish “steampunk” ambient sounds of Capsules, the group’s debut, upon an unsuspecting music world. (Steampunk is a movement interested in exploring the Fantasy/Sci-Fi ideas of authors like H.G Wells and Jules Verne, worlds where anachronistic technologies exist. ) Two tracks were contributed to a recent Dynamophone sampler: “Tangle in Delirium” is a ghostly passage with tantalizing pedal steel echoes and arctic guitar slides that point to a Victorian influence; “The Drowning Calm”, meanwhile, recalls some sinister aspects of Walter/Wendy Carlos’ “A Clockwork Orange” score, a film based on an Anthony Burgess novel, that can be defined by inconceivable technological inventions that defy the timeframe. Currently, the group is preparing to record its second full-length, working again in close collaboration with engineer Scott Solter, which it hopes to release in 2010.- last.fm
San Francisco-based indie pop band the Balustrade Ensemble were formed by songwriter/guitarist Grant Miller (of Mandible Chatter), arranger/engineer Scott Solter (Tarentel, Charles Atlas, Boxharp, Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, Pattern Is Movement), and singer Wendy Allen (Boxharp). In addition to the three principals, guest musicians include keyboard player Matt Henry Cunitz, pedal steel guitarist Ryan Rosenberg, pianist Liam Singer, and cellist Rich Vaughan. Borrowing a term from science fiction literature that refers to Victorian fantasies about the future by such writers as Jules Verne, "steampunk" (coined as a contrast to "cyberpunk"), the members of the Balustrade Ensemble described their ethereal music as "steampunk-ambient." The first recorded example of that came when they signed to the local Dynamophone Records label and released their debut album, Capsules, on November 5, 2007, with a worldwide release arranged for May 13, 2008.- allmusic.com

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