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Old 01-03-2015, 10:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Chamber Orchestras and Avant-Garde Lite: A Beginner´s Guide

How many artists does it take to make a genre? When a few bands pick up the same instruments to explore similar musical territory, have they established a genre? The bands I´d like to share with you here are members of a category for which there doesn´t seem to be a satisfactory label as yet. Nonetheless, they have a few things in common. For instance, to be a member of this non-genre, it is apparently expected that you:-

.....i) come from either the USA or Scandanavia
.....ii) go easy on the drum kit
.....iii) play something novel using traditional acoustic instruments
.....iv) call your band an ensemble or orchestra

The eight bands that follow can check some, if not all, of those boxes and they are listed according to their date of formation, starting with the oldest.

1. Penguin Cafe Orchestra:-

Founded in 1972, PCO were active for 24 years, until their mastermind, Simon Jeffes, died of a brain tumor in 1997. Surprisingly, they only have about five “real” albums to their credit. (To keep things simple, in the album totals, I´m discounting EPs, bootlegs, compilations, spin-offs and albums with drastic changes of personnel, ok? )
Here are two tracks; the first is one of their most catchy compositions, while the second, probably their single most famous piece, is either cool or infuriating, according to your mood:-

......

Associated Bands: The Anteaters are who PCO became after the death of Simon Jeffes and so are the rightful torchbearers of his legacy imo. On the other hand, the band who now call themselves Penguin Cafe are a different band altogether, apart from being fronted by Simon Jeffes´s son.

2. Kronos Quartet:-

These guys also started out in 1972, in San Francisco, but since then they have turned up all over the place; not just geographically but in terms of their exposure, their musical styles, their soundtracks and their collaborations. They have recorded with a zillion people, from Allen Ginsberg to Nine Inch Nails. With 43 productive years to date, and about 43 albums behind them, you are almost bound to have heard their music even if you didn´t realise it at the time.



^ Pieces of Africa was their biggest selling album and remains a personal favourite because the African composers involved injected a bit of spirit into the Quartet´s music: imo they have a tendency to focus too much on rather sombre minimalist compositions, but their discography is so varied that you can effectively pick the Kronos that you want to hear - jazz, classical, ambient, etc. Here´s a guide to help you choose:- Kronos Quartet discography - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Another happy collaboration occured in 2004 when Kronos were in Helsinki, playing with the extraordinary Kimmo Pohjonen:-



(Vibrant MB thread about a Kronos soundtrack: http://www.musicbanter.com/soundtrac...oundtrack.html )

3. Lars Hollmer:-

LH was an Swedish accordionist/keyboard player who released his first solo album in 1978. He was busy with an impressive number of projects and bands for the next 30 years, playing under his own name or as part of The Looping Home Orchestra, Accordion Tribe and the Global Home Project to mention the main ones. Sadly in 2008, at age 60, he lost his life to cancer. Can´t really sum up his talents in two clips, but these might give you some idea of his range: the first features his dog Snotan on lead vocals, while in the second he is really rocking it in the band Von Zamla (which is off topic, strictly speaking, but still worth hearing.):-

.......

Associated bands: He was also a founder member of the innovative rock band Samla Mammas Manna.

4. L´Ensemble Rayé:-

They´ve recorded covers of Robert Wyatt and Erik Satie material, but they are usually too cheerful to be regarded as avant-garde. Starting out in 1987, they made 7 albums before things fell apart in 2005. This is from their 1993 album, Quelques Piéces Détachées :-



Associated bands: Co-founding guitarist Cédric Vuille has struck out on his own with a few solo albums, and is also a member of the band 3 Mice.

5. Ensemble Ambrosius:-

With considerable panache, they chose to make their debute album a collection of Zappa covers. It was recorded in Finland in 1995 but so far there´s only been one follow up album, so these guys are in danger of being one-hit wonders:-



6. The Four Bags:-

Leaning towards jazz, they started out in New York in 1999 and have 4 albums in their discography. TBH they are completely new to me, but luckily they do a pretty good job of introducing themselves:-



7. Frankenstein Consort:-

This is pretty much a side project of main man Erik Lindgren, when he wants a break from his solo work or from his contribution to the band Birdsongs of Mezozoic. In fact there is only one album credited to FC, and that´s Classical a-Go-Go, from 2006. As the title suggests, even when the music is modern and written by EL, it sounds like classical music. Here is one of the few clips of FC that are available, which you can compare with the more experimental Birdsongs if you feel inclined:-

.....

8. Misophone:-

With a pop sensibility (as the expression goes) Misophone are actually a duo - but one of the guys plays so many instruments that they sound like a chamber group. From Carlisle, they describe their music as “kitchen sink folk ”. They started out in 2007 and have made 9, 10 or 13 albums, depending on the website you look at.



^ That track is from their first album which is reviewed here:-

Spoiler for Review:
review of “Where Has It Gone, All the Beautiful Music of Our Grandparents? It Died With Them, That's Where It Went...” in Sic Magazine:

“Fresh, invigorating and exciting – three words not normally associated with a band that is 13 albums into their career. But then Misophone aren’t just any band. They’ve written over 500 songs, never played live and seem hell bent of capturing the magic of Efterklang, A Hawk and A Hacksaw, The Penguin Café Orchestra, Neutral Milk Hotel and the Canterbury scene of the 60’s, cramming it all into one big bewitching potion for all to consume.
Hailing from Carlisle, a small English city that hugs the Scottish border, Misophone comprise multi-instrumentalist S. Herbert and poet/lyricist M.A Walsh. This exquisitely titled album dives head first into a number of styles without ever-sounding contrived. From the upbeat sea-shanty folk of “Nothing Down There But Trees” (note the superb Syd Barrett alliteration in lyrics like ‘Sickly Sap Sun Soap Sud Clouds) to the Mercury Rev performing a lullaby cover of Daniel Johnston’s “You Can’t Break A Broken Heart”, “Where Has It Gone…” is a trip and a half.
“Turning Hay In the Fields” taps into the celebratory nature of a Bavarian Oktoberfest, via a shout along chorus, while producing the finest Balkan influenced instrumentation since A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s “The Way the Wind Blows”. Beirut really doesn’t have a patch on these guys. That’s not all though – “Petroleum Lampa” is a skewed washboard-blues number that seems to have been recorded in a forgotten time, possibly an era when steam-powered machines and gramophones were the norm. “Don’t Be Afraid” is the macabre sounds of your worst Halloween nightmare ( images of the sinister boat ride in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory continually flash across my mind when I listen to this one) and if “The Sea Has Spoken” doesn’t get your feet moving, then nothing ever will.
An album that doesn’t miss a trick, Misophone effortlessly power their way through an unbelievable amount of styles, yet always retain a certain edge that makes it their own. I feel I should criticize this record somewhere, but I just can’t, it’s wonderful. A highly enjoyable, nostalgic and inventive release from Kning Disk. Put this on at a party and show your friends just how cool you really are.


Anyway, I hope there is something of interest here; several of these bands really deserve a thread of their own, so if anyone wants to fill in some gaps – or vilify me for missing out a band altogether, please go ahead...
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Old 01-04-2015, 12:45 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow, I really like all of these. Well, I know what I'm looking up tomorrow.
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Old 01-04-2015, 11:01 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks, Wpnfire ! I´m really glad to hear that you´ve enjoyed those clips - I´d be interested to hear about what else you find. Happy hunting!

( As for me, I´m streaming some Lars Hollmer stuff right now as I don´t know his material as much as I´d like to; it´s all good so far.)
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Old 01-04-2015, 11:22 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Nice selection! Some of those are among my favourites.

Here are some additions:

Rational Diet



Five-Storey Ensemble



Sonata Islands (aka Altrock Chamber Quartet)



Tin Hat



Scavenger Quartet



Cro Magnon



Volapük



Aranis

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Old 01-04-2015, 05:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Hello, grindy! After the Beginner´s Guide, come the experts! Thanks for adding some great music to the list - all of them are new names to me, except Tin Hat, who I came across in the Everything is Illuminated soundtrack:-



On a first run-through, of the songs that you posted, I particularly liked Rational Diet, Cro Magnon and Scavenger Quartet -well, I liked them all really, so I have some investigating to do, as well as Wpnfire.
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Old 01-05-2015, 01:54 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisnaholic View Post
Hello, grindy! After the Beginner´s Guide, come the experts! Thanks for adding some great music to the list - all of them are new names to me, except Tin Hat, who I came across in the Everything is Illuminated soundtrack:-


On a first run-through, of the songs that you posted, I particularly liked Rational Diet, Cro Magnon and Scavenger Quartet -well, I liked them all really, so I have some investigating to do, as well as Wpnfire.
Glad you enjoyed it.
Really hope this thread will keep going, this kind of music is great and I'm looking forward to discovering something new in that vein.
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Old 01-06-2015, 07:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Only A Mother



Daniel Schell & Karo



Alec K. Redfearn & The Eyesores



Amoebic Ensemble

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Old 01-07-2015, 08:30 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grindy View Post
Glad you enjoyed it.
Really hope this thread will keep going, this kind of music is great and I'm looking forward to discovering something new in that vein.
^ Yes, I hope so too, grindy. Unfortunately, I exhausted my knowledge with my first post and can´t really recommend any more artists. All I have this morning are two clips from the musicians that are mentioned in the Misophone album review; A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Efterklang, and I´m not really convinced by either. To me, A Hawk and a Hacksaw should really be in the Klezmer thread if there is such a thing, and Efterklang score well in terms of being Scandanavian, but sound more like smooth prog rock or something. Well, you can judge for yourself, grindy:-

.....


Your latest clips, on the other hand, I really loved, Especially Daniell Schell and Karo, with the eclectic collection of art Works, and Alec Redfearn and the Eyesores - really great music from a very modest, homely setting. Thanks for those tips!
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Old 01-11-2015, 01:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisnaholic View Post
^ Yes, I hope so too, grindy. Unfortunately, I exhausted my knowledge with my first post and can´t really recommend any more artists. All I have this morning are two clips from the musicians that are mentioned in the Misophone album review; A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Efterklang, and I´m not really convinced by either. To me, A Hawk and a Hacksaw should really be in the Klezmer thread if there is such a thing, and Efterklang score well in terms of being Scandanavian, but sound more like smooth prog rock or something. Well, you can judge for yourself, grindy:-

.....


Your latest clips, on the other hand, I really loved, Especially Daniell Schell and Karo, with the eclectic collection of art Works, and Alec Redfearn and the Eyesores - really great music from a very modest, homely setting. Thanks for those tips!
Not really my cup of tea, although not bad either.
The videos don't work around here, but I checked out some albums.
Although I have to say, that I really enjoyed Misophone, at least 1-2 albums.
And I usually really dislike indie-ish sounding music.

Some more stuff:

Bar Kokhba




Univers Zero



Hamster Theatre



The Archestra



Rhun

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Old 01-12-2015, 04:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Eviyan!
I can't link yet, but I think I can share it if it's broken up
www .youtube .com/ watch?v=fRsFPhEeNlI

It's Iva Bittova, Evan Zipporyn, Gyan Riley, and some guys I don't know on bass and percussion.
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