We love all the different ways tune-yards can get us going. Here’s a wonderful edition of Fiya – in a shop!!!
My enjoyment of Florence + The Machine really seems to come in utter waves. I go nuts and then burn out very quickly only to want more again later on. One of the most interesting things I thought would be getting her new CD/DVD of her Unplugged session which I did for a present for a certain someone – did we enjoy?
In a word yes but I was a touch underwhelmed too.
The CD itself has 11 songs along Cosmic Love is strangely omitted from the DVD – it’s also in a different order strangely too. Florence’s vocals are spot on and the Unplugged versions in general shine but one thing specifically was lacking for some of the songs and that’s percussion. It seemed as if the more percussive the song, the less the drummer would take part which I found equal parts intriguing, alluring and disappointing at the same time. It absolutely doesn’t take any anything from the performance itself, it’s just that I found the choices to use percussion were unusual.
“Only If For A Night” is stunningly beautiful with a choir backing Florence, “Drumming Song” sounding more freeform folk without any percussion while a duet with Josh Homme on a cover called Jackson veers off into country. My personal favourite No Light, No Light is excellently done yet very rarely is there a moment of euphoria throughout the whole performance. It’s restrained. It’s pretty. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I wanted a mass of drums marching me round in circles. Instead I got semi-skimmed Machines.
We here at Higher Plain Music love ourselves some indie games and as an avid game music collector, this latest indie game music bundle is an absolute steal!
For just $10 minimum you can purchase 15(!)game soundtracks including Plants Vs Zombies, Terraria, GunGirl 2 and NoituLove!
Initially I wasn’t going to review this because readers will know that I fell in love with Night of Hunters from day one but “Sin Palabras” is an interesting take because it’s essentially the karaoke version of the album itself.
All vocals are stripped away and the arrangements are pulled to the fore. Here suddenly you can hear the stunning detail of all the strings, woodwind and piano working in perfect harmony together. Standouts are the frantic “Shattering Sea” that literally sounds like an entire orchestra is going nuts, “Fearlessness” literally playing like endless waves that wash you away and the jaw dropping “Star Whisperer” which still spell binds me now. Even the slower tracks still are beautiful and the piano carries the main vocal lines so you can still feel the entire melody anyway.
It has in fact given me and utterly new appreciation for the original album – plus some excellent string arrangements to sing over the top of. What is there not to love?
Carina Round has certainly been around for a few years but I’ve only discovered her in the last 18 months at best. Her latest album is nearing completion so I think it’s high time we gave her some love here at Higher Plain Games and told you all to buy her most recent EP “Things You Should Know”.
Opener “Backseat” is stunningly beautiful working from a simple ditty on a keyboard to slowly swell up with strings, brass and a chorus of vocals singing over and over the same two lines as is bursts into a fanfare. It feels like you’ve burst into a new life. In contrast the sultry “Please Don’t Stop” feeds off sparse guitar arrangements and strong vocal performances as the song ebbs and flows in places that song’s aren’t traditionally supposed to. The result is something fresh and effecting as it evolves and builds into a rocking finale.
“Thief in the Sky” is another excellent track which is acoustic guitar led but gets leg slapping angsty for the choruses. It leads perfectly into the epic “Do You” which is predominantly a guitar/vocal track that is hypnotic and enticing because the vocals are so hushed and the guitar melodic you don’t expect it when Carina suddenly bursts into frenzies at certain points in the track. The closer is the title track and it is wonderfully understated with its marching percussive edges muted behind the collage of guitars and vocals.
Carina Round shows that while she can easily rock it out with massive riffs, she can equally match them with some of the most smoulderingly beautiful melancholic quiet rock too. One of the best EP’s in recent years.
Winner and my personal favourite from the Eurovision of 2012 – this is Loreen with her excellent dance track “Euphoria”. I think she’s been watching Running Up That Hill…
Site owner Simon Smith has teamed up with fellow gamer Ben Williamson to launch The BetaCast – a podcast all about our gaming fun! Over the coming weeks we will be talking about games of the past, present and future and wandering off tangent as much as possible.
Episode 1 entitled “Rose Tinted Indie Hello” is simply an introduction to ourselves – the games we like, the trends we don’t and seemingly our mutual love of the indie game genre! After the first episode we will be following a more traditional structure as we target certain games, eras and so on.
We hope you enjoy the show and continue to follow us!
(The show will also be available on iTunes in due course)
Lauren Edman’s debut solo CD “It’s Always the Quiet One” is quite fantastic – as we’ve said below. We got the chance to chat to Lauren about her first solo album and the processes and thoughts behind it…
Firstly, congratulations on the fantastic album “It’s Always the Quiet One”! How do you feel now your baby is out for public to enjoy?
Thank you! It actually feels really weird. I’m glad it’s out, but it is a strange feeling. These songs were kicking around in my head for so long, and for so long I was the only one who’d ever heard them. I’m a private person, but this is a really personal album, so coming to terms with that has been interesting for me. It’s weird also to think that these songs are finally “done” after so long, and that when I get to making my next album, I will be working on an entire set of completely different songs! I probably sound silly saying that because it’s just… obvious, but there it is, that’s how I feel.
Reading up on your bio, most of the album seemed to be conceived in the early hours of morning – did that have an overall impact on the sound designs and writing as a whole? I would describe it as a secretly nocturnal album!
There was a period of about three years during which I got the impression that my best creative time was at 3AM. I was awake past then every night due to my late work hours – I slept until noon every day – and the music ideas would just kind of flow around 3AM. I would say my most sprawling, somewhat dark songs were written during that time: “Charge,” “Be the Light,” “Slate.” I don’t know if that was a coincidence or not. About half of the songs on this album were written then. I guess generally I do prefer writing songs when it’s dark outside, though now that’s more likely to be around 9 or 10PM.
You’ve had such a diverse musical backgrounds previously with bands – how do you narrow down your sound for a specific album when you cover so many genres in general?
It’s really difficult to do that, actually. I naturally write in a wide variety of styles – it’s just whatever I’m in the mood to write, and I’ve been like that as long as I’ve been writing songs. I like doing that too much to want to try to limit the genres I write in. So the music itself is all over the place, and any kind of production that gets applied to those songs has to fit both with the song itself as well as in the context of the album as a whole. I had more songs I wanted to put on this album, songs I really like, but style-wise they were just too far removed from everything else to work here. I chose these ten songs because not only could I make them work as part of a whole in terms of the direction of the sound, but I was able to tell a story with them.
Sometimes the production of one song was guided by the song that came before it – “Red Wings” had to somehow form a bridge between “Sweet Girl” and “Desperate Times.” I didn’t start work on the production to that song until both of the surrounding songs were complete, and I let the feel of “Sweet Girl” guide the way I wanted “Red Wings” to come in, and what tempo it should be. “Red Wings” was actually much slower when I made my original demo of it, very ambient and washed out with the vocal harmonies. I felt that if I were to leave it in that style for this album, I would need more songs that sounded like that because otherwise it just sounded too out of place.
I’ve also read about how you came across the banjo which is an excellent read from your behind the scenes posts you place on your website. Do you have any other stories of discovery about the album you could share with us?
The slide guitar sound in “Sweet Girl” has been mentioned a little, but I’ll go into more detail about that. I’ve had a thing for the lap/pedal steel sound for a while now. I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to fit in my album, but I was thinking I wanted it on there somehow. I went to Craigslist looking for a lap steel player and got a few responses, but I didn’t know what exactly I would want an actual player of the instrument to do, so I never did anything with them. I got out my acoustic guitar to tinker around with it somehow, seeing if I could make convincing sliding sounds with anything I already owned. I tried a bunch of devices as a slide: a ceramic shot glass, an empty beer bottle, some sort of metallic item that I can’t remember (no, not a beer can). But this one glass makeup bottle I had – makeup that I don’t even use but still had – actually sounded pretty good. I put maybe five different effects on it to stretch out the notes as much as possible. While it’s not lap steel, I got the sort of effect I was going for.
One thing that stands out on the album is your vocal harmonies. How do you manage to create such a beautiful collage of voices?
In some cases I write specific harmonies, but other times I just go through and improvise harmonies along with the track and record whatever comes out. Some of it inevitably sounds terrible because I have no idea what note I’ll be singing next (I chop out the terrible notes), but I like doing it that way because I end up coming out with really interesting harmonies that I wouldn’t have thought of if I’d actually been thinking about it. Usually I have an idea of what I’m going for – tone, mood, vocal range/register – but not the specific notes planned ahead of time before I start recording. I like the ethereal, angelic stuff, so that is usually the vibe I go for with harmonies- but sometimes I want more of an epic sound, sometimes a happy sound, sometimes a little weird or discomforting. For example, all of the vocal harmonies in “Be the Light” were improvised except for the ones in the bridge, which I had planned specifically. I really wanted that song to sound pretty but also a little creepy at the same time, especially at the very end where all the odd vocal parts start coming in.
Yes! I’m working on writing live arrangements of the songs. I won’t be trying to replicate my album’s sound. I like having “live versions” of songs, as opposed to just playing it exactly the way it sounds on the album. So I’m going to have a group of instrumentalists playing with me, and we’ll see how that sounds.
As an instrument enthusiast, are there any new instruments you’d like to include or learn for future projects?
I’d really love to learn bass, but if that doesn’t work out well for me I’ll definitely involve a bass player on my next album. Electric guitar, too. I’ve got songs that need those sounds. I’ve got a plucked psaltery hanging around that I didn’t use on this album, so it would be nice to find a place for that in the future also.
Do you have anything you enjoy to get up to as a break from recording / song writing?
Yeah, sometimes I would get up in the middle of mixing a song and bake a quickbread or cookies or something. Cooking was generally my distraction during the process. I’ve actually been cooking less extensively since finishing the album, which I find strange.
Lastly, as a truly independent artist, do you have any advice on any other artists wishing to get their music out there and how valuable is the internet as a tool for your musical adventures?
I haven’t exactly mastered this arena – I have a hard time reaching out to people for the purpose of promoting myself, and I always feel awkward doing it – so I’m not sure I’m a good person to offer advice on this! I do think it’s still important to have an actual, decent looking website with general information on it as opposed to just relying on a social networking page. And I personally think it’s cool for that website to have interesting content on it, related to the music, that isn’t already posted on Facebook or Twitter, etc. to give people something to really latch onto. Beyond that… I guess try to be less shy about it than I generally am, and try to have someone other than yourself promote your music for at least a little while if you can.
Thank you very much Lauren – best of luck with the excellent album that you can grab on iTunes and Lauren’s website.
Jesper’s always busy – this time with the highly anticipated Darksiders II game. I loved the soundtrack to the first game and will be hotly anticipating the second – although I really must finish the actual first game first!
All the samples, of which there are four, are available from Jesper Kyd’s YouTube Channel.
Francis Bowie is a Danish singer/songwriter/artist/painter/sculptor/design/gallery owner. As you do. As a result of that cluster of arty goodness – we get a slice of rather excellent pop! Here’s Franny!
Kim Edwards is a singer/songwriter whom branches off into various styles of music although more of it is underpinned by guitar and piano. Her voice is beautiful and her brass marching single “The Show” is wonderfully whimsy.
Yes that is a screenshot! Pixeljunk – home to some of PS3′s more acquired tastes and gems of gaming have returned with a second collaboration with Baiyon (Pixeljunk Eden) for what is not so much a game but an interactive music loop suite.
Using the PlayStation Move controller you are presented with arty wave painting each one with a collection of samples. Each symbol on the controller responds to a certain sound – bass, beats, synth and percussion. Each of those have four loops to mix together and you cleverly drag them from the corners of the screen and drop them into your mix. The move button can be held to twist the pitch and frequencies and by swishing the move controller you can really get some wacky sounds. In addition there are one-off sounds you can try to record over these endless riff bars and although the sound palette is relatively small, there’s still plenty to get creative.
Getting creative is what it’s all about as if you’re online, your music will be broadcast out for people to listen to and wave their controller to cheer you on. As a musician already, there is something quite marvellous about having this feature and having already hit a few hundred people at one time being in my audience, there’s nothing quite like it. The move implementation also makes the experience utterly unique, almost like you’re part of the sound waves themselves.
There are a few issues and that’s purely down to a few annoyances with the program itself. You can mix different sound palettes together but I thought that I often hit the limit of samples allowed and then it will cancel out one of my drum loops. What actually is happening is that the samples cancel themselves out after 16 bars and so you have to keep your wits about you if you’re going for an endless mantra. On the plus side, it keeps things fresh but occasionally this can get in the way while I’m taking a lot of time and effort to sculpt loops from the one hit sounds to make added musical layers. Also if you’re not a fan of the strictly low-fi music of Baiyon, you’ll find a lot of the samples are very similar and possibly underwhelming. That said, although there’s not tons to play with here, its surprising how much you can twist and turn the same sample into completely different things.
~Nothing else like it
~Music and motion combined in the most intuitive and seamless experience to date
~Playing to an audience is one of the most elating things I’ve experienced in gaming in recent memory
~Some very samey samples
~If you lack imagination and exploration you’ll fall short very early on
Utterly unique and hypnotic, I have literally spent hours playing to crowds expressing music and finding new ways to twist sounds and shapes. I would have liked a broader variety of samples on offer and for more samples to unlock earlier on in the playing but as a product, it is something that I think a lot of people will have great joy experiencing regardless of how deep you dig into it.
Having been privileged to play a few sets before her once a few years ago in Essex, Cara Winter has returned with her third disc release which will be reviewed later. For now though feast of “Butterfly” which has been re-recorded for the new CD.
Note to self – don’t get on Derek’s bad side! Reminds me of War of the Roses – “Where’s Benny?”
The songs nice enough but the video is simply a classic in the history of music videos!
Possibly the film I’m most excited for in 2012 Samsara appears to arriving in the UK late summer time. I cannot wait.
Short and sweet, but good fun while it lasts.
I do enjoy a cutesy kart racer and Pacman’s is certainly one of the finer ones from the last generation.
Watch the playthrough of all the tracks here – battle modes will be added at a later date.
Cult Japanese only PS1 title Salaryman Champ makes it onto my playthrough list. Sadly this was the last Bishi Bashi styled game. We need more. I crave more BISH BASH! Watch the playthrough here.
In something that has completely passed me by, Balders Gate is getting an Enhanced Version. That’s awesome news in its own right. Interestingly, Sam Hulick – composer recently of Mass Effect’s 1 2 and 3 is on board scoring new material for the new gameplay segments. Its uncertain as to whether the music will only appear there and the old music from the original games will appear in their original places but I shall keep a beady eye over the project and watch with intrigue.