James Bernard / Atwater (ASIPV014) Live in Los Angeles

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We're excited to announce the next vinyl release (ASIPV014) by modular synthesist James Bernard, titled Atwater. More details here.

To celebrate the release, James will be bringing his rig and playing a live modular set at LA's Stellar Remnant Record store in DTLA, from 5-8pm on Sunday 24th February.

There will be advanced copies of James' 12" 'Atwater', available to purchase along with a store full of great records. James will be supported by ASIP / Ryan Griffin spinning vinyl + more guests TBA.

Entry is FREE and open to all ages. We hope to see you there!

View / attend event on Facebook and Resident Advisor


Jóhann Jóhannsson at the Walt Disney Concert Hall: the prequel to the sequel


I've been in LA for almost two years, and finding a reason to see a show at the architectural wonder of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, has been hard. Tickets go fast for such a beautiful venue, but I was lucky enough to snap some up to see one of my favourite musicians, Jóhann Jóhannsson, as part of the Reykjavik Festival. Showcasing some of the best talent to emerge from Iceland, the festival is spread out over a few weeks and also features shows by Sigur Ros, followed by a long-running digital installation by Bjork

The venue is worth a visit on its own. From the outside, Frank Gehry's concert hall is a large metallic sculpture, with swathes of curved metal that reflect a spectrum of colored light, and looks even more glorious at sunset. It was the perfect setting for the future Blade Runner sequel composer- the epitome of futuristic architecture, sat right next to the towers of downtown LA. 

Our seats were on the terrace level, but dead-center and looking straight at the performers. As long as you don't mind heights, there didn't seem to be a bad seat in the house. The metallic features outside are replaced by warm wooden beams on the inside, with graceful curves the remaining constant, as multicolored seating rose steeply on each side of the stage. 

Bedroom Community kicked off the evenings proceedings. A collective of musicians currently based in Reykjavik, they took it in turns to host a piece they had each written, which resulted in a mixture of styles, ranging from beautiful folk, to Icelandic themed experimental, and more electronic IDM sequences from label founder Valgeir Sigurðsson. To quote my wife, every piece had a sweet spot of around 3-minutes which peaked her interest, but they tended to go on just a little bit too long, becoming more abstract, and pushing the boundaries amongst each of their talents on stage. For the experimental admirers in the room (of which my wife is not), it was undoubtedly an impressive feat as the collective transitioned through various movements and toyed with different song structures and moods. What would start as a simple piano piece, became a cacophony of drums, electronics, vocals and organ, ending on, for example, a simple folk melody. 

After the interlude, the stage was changed slightly, with just one grand piano remaining, two synthesizers/pianos, a reel-to-reel, and a seating arrangement for five string players. Whilst the stage was still empty, the reel-to-reel was switched on, crackling through the short-wave radio transmissions we heard throughout Jóhann's latest album, Orphée. As Jóhann's orchestra took their seats and began to layer on top of the tape, the show quickly flowed through some of his most majestic pieces.

Because of this uninterrupted approach, it was hard for me to identify the many beautiful stages and compositions amongst his extensive catalogue. Tracks from Orphée, peaked at several points, but I didn’t take any mental notes for every other track, and kept my trainspotter activity to a minimum - it was the perfect score to drift off and immerse to on a Monday evening after rushing from the west-side. Flight From The City was odds-on to be the defining moment of the show, and it didn’t disappoint, with Jóhann's perfectly timed, and delicately sensed piano caressing the beautiful, heart-wrenching strings to his side. The emphatic Fragment II closed out the show to flickering strobe lights and a well deserved standing ovation. 

Unlike the Hans Zimmer show I saw the previous week, Jóhann didn't provide any commentary between scores, and instead chose to flow them together, sometimes with the help and interlude of the reel-to-reel short-wave samples. This practice became somewhat of a spectacle in itself, with Jóhann stopping the tape whilst his orchestra remained, placing the tape back into boxes, and then reattaching new tape for the next composition. It was a nice addition to the show - the refined and beautiful violinists purring away as Jóhann sorted through boxes, created a juxtaposed left and right stage atmosphere. Jóhann's cues and signals did not come in the form of a classical conductors hand wave, but instead from the crackling shortwave numbers and distorted vocals emitting from the reel-to-reel tape. 

I left the show feeing like I’d just witnessed a skilled professor give a masterclass. Jóhann was diligent, and every move he and his orchestra made was purposeful and poignant. His moments behind the piano were rare, but powerful- like a secret weapon amongst his many beautiful pieces - it kept each moment he sat down at the keys, extremely special. 

Only once, did he resort to instructing his fellow orchestra, pre-empting them to raise a section of one specific score. The rest of the time, he let them be the focus, whilst he gracefully assembled his reel-to-reel, or added subtle elements through his laptop setup. 

As I left the venue, it was an unusually foggy evening in downtown LA and the high-rise offices surrounding the Walt Disney Concert Hall mimicked scenes from Blade Runner, as the dim glow of coloured lights pulsed from the sky above. It was as if Jóhann Jóhannsson had planned it all along - this show, featuring discovered tapes from the past, set amongst futuristic architecture and a dystopian Los Angeles skyline; a prequel to the highly anticipated Blade Runner 2049 score he is set to deliver later this year. 


Hans Zimmer live in Los Angeles: lifting the curtain on the magic behind the music


Last Friday, I took my family to a sold out Microsoft Theater in downtown LA to see Hans Zimmer on his first US tour date.

The energy before the show was palpable, as people chatted before taking their seats, admiring the extent of the venue - it was clear this was no ordinary composer. Hans was now a rock-star in his own right, with whistles, cheers and rapturous support from the moment he walked on stage. Hans either has lots of friends in LA (very likely, actually given his base in Santa Monica and the glitz of Hollywood) or rather, this hidden genius, behind some of today’s most infamous films has truly solidified his status as one of the most revered composers of today. His reasoning for this tour, in his own words, was due to friends prompting him to get out of his windowless room and meet the people who admire his work. Much to everyones relief, they came in their droves to see him on this, his opening night of an extensive worldwide tour. 

The show opened with the emphatic jazz-inspired energy of Driving Miss Daisy, as his band were revealed, followed by an additional full orchestra tier, and finally a silhouetted choir lining the back of a massive stage. This opening track likely helped ease my in-laws into the night, as they had no idea what to expect after my vague "movie score" intro.

Hans took his place on the piano as the energy quickly ramped up and the fast paced tinkering kept everyone fixated. It was a perfect crescendo to open the show, leaving gasps and then applause, as the crowd realized the extending stage presence with each reveal of the curtain. 

Hans played the role of graceful host throughout the evening, giving short stories about his life, about the work that was to follow, and bellowing support for his fellow musicians. He was gentlemanly and appreciative, making the bustling theater feel like we were all sat in a glorified and intimate practice session. It was after all, an extremely manicured and refined setup, but he would go on to warn us of newly added middle-parts to tracks we know all too well, and some experiments the band wanted to try. One of which, included Hans sitting down and jamming on guitar in the middle of an the infamous Gladiator score, bookended by some beautiful vocals by Czarina Russell. It was an extended section to one of his best pieces to date - he was having fun, and it was infectious.

After a sombre but immersive Crimson Tide soundtrack, the programming moved relatively slowly, and the majority of pieces remained separated by Hans' personal introductions. With a production of this size, these guys needed time to rearrange and catch their breath. This was until, the familiar Lion King chant dropped without any notice - the stage background slowly lit by an African sunrise, and guest vocalist (and original Lion King vocalist) Lebo M, and his daughter, flanked the stage powering through the ‘Circle of Life’. It was a switch in pace, but for the eclectic crowd - many of which probably know him due to The Lion King and its extended franchise, it was the perfect energy bump for a set largely devoid of lead vocals. 

After the break, Hans had changed into a black t-shirt, and with a sly knowing of intent, introduced the following section of the show, as "the super-hero part". Hans’ fans likely arrived through many avenues over the years - his Academy Award winning Lion King score, his early 90’s scores for Crimson Tide or, The Thin Red Line, but perhaps most notoriously, his major epics for The Dark Knight, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Gladiator, Inception and most recently, Interstellar. It was within these pieces that we saw some of the key musicians in his band come to the foreground, with Cellist Tina Guo flawlessly displaying her eccentric and passionate style, drummer Satnam Singh pounding through a percussive, tribal Batman theme, and in the end, Hans himself pouring over the piano for my favorite piece to close the show, Inception. Hans would end up playing piano, guitar, banjo, drums (“when it’s your own band you get to decide”) and even a tribal chant as part of the Dark Night’s elevating and driving percussive suite.

Throughout the evening, Hans made sure he gave the spotlight to each of his key players on stage in a humbling manner. Not only were we dealing with one of the most successful composers of all time, but the likes of James Newton Howard was also plugging away somewhere back there, pioneering cellist Tina Guo could’ve been selling out concerts of her own and 'Multidirectional Flute Soloist’ Pedro Eustache, was truly one of a kind - and we were very lucky to have him (You may have heard his previous work on this classic chill-out track.) At one point, I’m sure I witnessed Pedro pick up three different wood-instruments in the space of 1-minute, all executed flawlessly as he ran from stage-right, to stage-center. Timing these energetic displays with 50+people could go very wrong, but this guy was truly the Pied Piper of the show. 

Surrounding himself with friends within his music is a sentiment that's echoed throughout Hans' career, for example, refusing to enter scores into Academy Awards due to the requirement of a singular composer credit. This collective approach has undoubtedly won him respect and admiration from his fellows, let alone his fans. Most of these relationships, as Hans explained, have been formed over many many years, and it was evident this wasn’t a band brought together by the shallow ask of a tour. Instead, this was a band brought together by decades of practice, friendship and shared experiences that have formed the DNA of every one of his soundtracks. Only someone like Hans Zimmer can distill that process into the epic sound we hear behind some of the worlds biggest movies. 

Next time you listen to a Hans Zimmer score, know that the energy and emotion you hear isn’t necessarily a canned Hollywood style, pre-programmed output. In Hans’ instance, it’s likely the result of an amazing group of friendships formed over many years, who are amazing at what they do, and evidently, have a lot of fun doing it.

And as Hans went on to detail at one point in the show - debunking the glitz and glam of Hollywood - it's often these simple friendships that provide the spark to the most epic of journeys. A phone call at 9am between Hans and his good friend, and director, Ridley Scott, decided they needed to make a film about Gladiators...

“Oh you boys", Hans' wife said at that moment.  

Hans Zimmer has forever been the Wizard of Oz, hidden behind the grandeur of the music, and some of the most successful films of all time. But with his friends at his side, this show lifted the curtain on the humble heart and driving passions behind it all. 


Substrata 1.5 - The Final Immersion


The esteemed Substrata festival has come to a close after an epic, final weekend in Seattle. Rafael Anton Irisarri’s yearly ambient/experimental festival, which has been pushing some of the best music to grace this style, and the many (both unknown and known) associated artists, labels and projects, was highly regarded from all corners of the world, and as a result will leave a big hole in the ambient community.

I was lucky enough to attend the past three years, making the journey up from Portland to immerse myself over the long weekend of evening shows. This year was no different, but ultimately very different in meaning. Being the last show, many friends made the trip from across America to show their support and catch the last edition, and it was the first time I got to meet some of them after speaking on email for years. It was a community - a gathering of likeminded friends, more than a festival. We didn’t need to hang out the entire weekend, but we still made the time to grab a beer, a slice of pizza, or go record shopping, then sit and enjoy some beautiful music. 

The opening night always seemed to be one of my favourites at Substrata, and 1.5 opened with Tara Jane O’Neil’s murky drones and angelic voice. Rauelsson surprised many with his experimental approach to the piano, harmonica, xylophone, a tape recorder and audience participation - echoes of "Nils Frahm live" heard throughout conversations after, and the epitome of Rafael’s curation - he was one of the lesser known artist's on the bill, but will undoubtedly be one of the remembered. bvdub then closed the evening with his immersive soundscapes and some haunting visuals from Leo Mayberry. Inverted silhouettes, inspired from many of Brock’s album artwork, crossed with slowly descending cats and intense fire-scapes framing the euphoria and concentration emitting from Brock’s on-stage presence. 

The Friday night opened with a 7ft Gold Harp alongside Mary Lattimore, plucking and looping, twinkling notes, shimmering around the Chapel space. The highly anticipated Lubomyr Melnyk then took the stage, and began by explaining how scientists had got it wrong - sound, was much more than waves, and he was about to prove it to you.  Two pieces of “Continuous Music” in, and Lubomyr preceded a final third piece with a story of a windmill. The story was transferred to his magical fingers and throughout what seemed like a 45 minute spell (it was a little long), page-by-page came to life throughout an entrancing piano master-class. It was then the turn of 12k’s Taylor Deupree to close. More stunning visuals, triggered live by Marcus Fischer, accompanied the descending sunset, with Taylor's intrinsic meddling of the many synths, patches and unknown mechanics laid on the floor in-front of him, showing us a world of delicate sounds you’d likely find hidden amongst the undergrowth on a warm sunny day. 

Melodic drones and the warming sounds of both Tiny Vipers and Panabrite teased the highly anticipated Rachel Grimes, where she would be accompanied on stage by Substrata Alumni, Loscil. With Scott’s laptop turned towards the audience, Rachel poised stern behind the grand piano, and the summer heat finally getting to most of us, the stage was set for the most dramatic show of the weekend. The warmth and undertones resonating from Loscil, complimenting the stark beauty of Rachel’s Piano that we’ve heard on many of their collaborations. It could’ve been the finale to end all finales, but that was left to the legendary Shuttle 358 and his graceful return to music after many long lost years - Paul Clipson’s stunning visuals resonating from 16mm film, complimenting the shimmering beauty resonating from Shuttle 358; the perfect drones to signal another legendary weekend in Seattle, and the celebrated end for one of the most important festivals to ever grace the ambient, modern-classical and experimental community. 


You can read about a little Crate Digging trip I took whilst at Substrata with bvdub and Mike Cadoo here , and features on previous Substrata Festivals 1.3 (preview), 1.4 and 1.5 (preview). Please note, the lack of photos for this post was on purpose - I decided to keep my attention focused on the music this year.


Spotlight on Substrata 1.5 - the final edition

This years ambient pilgrimage to Seattle will thankfully happen after festival curator Rafael Anton Irisarri pulled out all of the stops from the other side of the country. 

After a painful year in which his entire studio was stolen prior to his move to New York, the annual intimate sound and visual art weekend was at risk of never seeing a fifth edition. But after months of hard-work, Rafael has managed to pull together one of the best line-ups yet, all for what seems to be the final Substrata.

The curatorial once again sees Rafael mix-up the bigger names of ambient and experimental music alongside local artists and well-respected yet perhaps lesser-known musicians. Out of the five editions, I'm yet to be familiar with every-single artist on the lineup, so once again I'm going to take a dive into what's in-store for what's set to be a very special fifth and final edition to the Pacific North West's (and probably one of the world's best) small festivals dedicated to this type of music. 

A very limited amount of tickets are available for the weekend at Substratafestival.com


With ASIPV003 set to be released in a few months time, Uwe's release alongside Hior Chronik titled In-between, will mark a very special occasion for ASIP. It will be our first dedicated artist release, and it will also see Uwe move away from his more recognised IDM style, into ambient music. Perfect timing, as Uwe is set to play a rare and exclusive ambient set for Substrata, hopefully echoing some of the approaches we'll witness on the album, alongside "entirely new material based on field recordings, treated with granular synthesis and electroacoustic/computeracoustic sounds".

Uwe has been releasing snippets of his studio work on his Soundcloud over the past few weeks, which might be the workings of what we can expect on the night. You can also listen to a couple of tracks from his upcoming ASIP release  here.


Taylor Deupree

Taylor Deupree runs the infamous 12k record label (home to Marcus Fischer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Marsen Jules and Simon Scott (of Slowdive fame) to name just a few. A producer in his own right, Taylor's responsible for a plethora of experimental and ambient albums over the years, and this intro could be a pretty massive rabbit-hole for anyone new to the name. 

Below, I've decided to showcase Taylor's Shoals, an album which might closely mimic the type of performance or sound we're likely to hear at Substrata. "After the first day in the studio, Deupree quickly realized that he was less interested in the traditional ways these instruments were played and more fascinated by the sounds of the surfaces of the 
instruments. And so he began to utilize their edges and undersides and find their flaws, such as broken strings. These instruments, played by scraping, tapping, or with an eBow, became the basis for long and meditative looping beds of sound".


Rachel Grimes

A pianist, composer and arranger, Rachel Grimes is someone I've come across regularly, but unforgivably failed to look further into. She has a wealth of experience working on film scores, commissions, and collaborations and has played at some of the worlds most diverse music festivals. 

Rachel's upcoming release on Temporary Residence is what may interest most of us. In collaboration with the likes of Loscil, Scott Moore, Kyle Crabtree (Shipping News), Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Jacob Duncan (Liberation Prophecy), and Helen Money, The Clearing represents "a wide spectrum of textures in strings, harp, piano, woodwinds, and percussion".

It'll be interesting to see who, and exactly what turns up on stage for Rachel's performance with such a variation of experience to choose from. 


Lubomyr Melnyk

Known for pioneering 'Continuous Piano Music' (and to some, as one of the worlds fastest pianists) the Ukrainian is a recent addition to the brilliant Erased Tapes label and a match-made in heaven for Substrata. I can't wait to sit back as the evening sun descends on the Chapel, and absorb the never-ending paintings that Lubomyr constructs. The video below should give you the best insight into what to expect. Rumour has it, he'll be leading an advanced piano-class on the Saturday of the festival.


Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Known by name to me, but not with as much familiarity as I would've hoped, Jefre is another artist which has been floating on my periphery for quite some time. He is known to many for his work in bands such as Tarentel, the co-founder of the Root Strata label and has also partnered with Substrata veteran Grouper as Raum

The below video is taken from his February 2015 release, A Year With 13 Moons. Going by this album and his production roots, it sounds like we'll be treated to a wall of glorious and colorful sound come festival-time.


Tiny Vipers

Bringing it home for Seattle is local acoustic singer Tiny Vipers. Similarly to Jefre above, Jesy Fortino has also partnered up with Liz Harris (Grouper) on one production in the past, but is perhaps better known for her solo acoustic performances, often seen playing live across Seattle on Kexp, or at the infamous Triple Door. For her performance at this Substrata, Jesy is set to play all new music made for analog synthezisers & tapes, in a similar vibe to German music like Tangerine Dream or Popol Vuh.

Below, her 2009 album Life On Earth seems a good place to reflect on what's she's done before, but it sounds like we'll be treated to something completely new at the festival. 


Tara Jane O'Neil

With a release on Mississippi Records dating back to 2006 - an infamous record store and label here in Portland, we could ascertain what kind of sound Tara may have in-store for us. Fast-forward to 2014 and it's Tara's release on Kranky which might have peaked the ears of festival curator Rafael, but similar to the above Tiny Vipers, Substrata will pay witness to a newly commissioned ambient and drone set. 



The beauty of this feature helps me get to grips with the type of music I can expect at Substrata, but as Rauelsson is likely to prove in a few months time, it will probably be the performance, not just music that becomes engrained in my memory.

A multi-instrumentalist, combining modern-classical with subtle electronics, it could be the type of performance I've witnessed from the likes of Nils Frahm and last years Evan Caminiti, judging by the below video and his latest release on Sonic Pieces (home to Otto A Totland).

My most anticipated performance of the festival for sure, we'll no doubt be welcomed with a stage-full of instruments for Rauelsson's return to the Pacific North West. 


Mary Lattimore

We'll be treated to a dedicated Harp performance this year by Mary Lattimore, and just like last year's solo cellist, Julia Kent, I'm hoping for another educational yet encapsulating performance on an instrument I very rarely get to see live. 

Mary has 'performed, collaborated, and recorded with who’s who of the indie rock scene: Jarvis Cocker, Thurston Moore, Sharon Van Etten, Meg Baird, Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn, 
Ed Askew, Fursaxa and many others', 
and this is one of the many reasons I enjoy and respect this festival. I would never choose to go and see a Harp player playing solo, yet I'm pretty sure we'll experience something unforgettable and perhaps, my musical senses will broaden just that little bit further.

Below, Mary playing alongside Jeff Zeigler in a mesmorizing and hypnotic performance.



Another local Seattle musician with a healthy back-catalog. Norm Chambers' latest release Disintegrating Landscape is a 47-minute long journey, beginning with very obvious rattling field recordings and slowly evolving into an intensely varied electronic spectrum - from organic instruments, through to atmoshperic washes into bleeps and synthesizers. This kind of extended, probably improvised set, is perfect for the attentive audience at Substrata. 


The last two artists on the lineup, Paul Clipson and Leo Mayberry are set to provide the visuals to the weekend's performances. With such an intimate space, and an audience looking to exploit such detailed and immersive music, artists such as Paul and Leo play a critical role in the experience and the vision Rafael seeks.

Leo Mayberry's local experience has previously seen him take the role of Decibel Festival's Visual Coordinator alongside gigs in pretty much every local Seattle venue, and San Francisco's Paul Clipson has featured within the New York Film Festival, Edinburgh Film Festival, and the Rotterdam International Film Festival to name just a few.