Tag Archive: Ambient Music

The two faces of Zu


Zu – skronking at the Bronson club, Ravenna, Italy

When it comes to live music I’ve never been much interested in seeing artists who look slick and sound just like they do on their studio recordings.

Performances to me should be an audio-visual experience that takes the listener/viewer into a more spontaneous zone; in other words, to be a one-off event.

But the case of Zu, a band from Rome, is an odd one. They have a new album called Jhator out on the splendidly named House of Mythology label and their tour dates are ostensibly to promote this fact. Or at least they would be in the normal order of things. The sticking point though is that the new album sounds nothing like they did on stage at the Bronson club near Ravenna last night. Continue reading


Der Watzmann by David Casper Friedrich

“Old men must be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity”
– T.S. Eliot – ‘East Coker’ from The Four Quartets.

Had a hard day on the planet?

Need some soothing music that quietens the soul but doesn’t deaden the brain?

Throw away those New Age tapes of dolphin sounds or bland electro-acoustic loops and check out my top ten albums for restoring a sense of balance and awakening consciousness. Continue reading


I’ve been test driving Booktrack on my ipad – a free app marketed as a revolutionary new reading / listening experience.

How it works is that selected titles are downloaded to your chosen device complete with a built in synchronized soundtrack. You can set specially composed music to play at the same pace as your reading speed.

The website assures us that “Unlike listening to random music, this music is scored to accompany the text and make sense to the story, helping to further the imagination and the story telling. The sound does not take away from the reading experience; it enhances it”.

I sampled the whole of The Ugly Duckling and the preview copies of stories by Salman Rushdie and Edgar Allan Poe.

The ‘sound designers’ combine ambient effects and field recordings like quacks and gunfire for Hans Christian Anderson’s tale.  Initially it felt quite distracting but it is quite cleverly done and by no means as kitschy as it sounds.  The site is clean, well designed and easy to navigate. Continue reading


GROUPER   Almagià, Ravenna  17th March 2012 – Transmissions V Festival

Liz Harris (Grouper) buried in a sleepy haze.

This show was billed as a 6pm matinee performance by ‘Grouper Violet Replacement’  incorporating the title of Liz Harris’ new self released album as if this were her new extended stage name.

Violet Replacement  has the longest tracks she has recorded to date  – two tracks with a total playing time of 88 minutes 36 seconds.  The hard copy versions are released on two separate CDRs (I was disappointed that copies were not sale at the venue so have to be content with my MP3 downloads).

Cushions were provided at the venue to ensure that the audience absorbed the music either seated or lying.  With the subdued lighting, the atmosphere was more like a meditation session than a rock show.

Liz Harris has an appropriately Zen-like presence, calmly and impassively operating her stage tools (no visible laptop) in what I assume is a straight playback  of the longer of the new album  tracks called Sleep.  The only visuals are some muted white dots that swirl around like oversized fireflies.

A few of the 50 or so listeners took the title literally as an invitation for a late afternoon nap and the soporific quality is, I imagine, deliberate.

This is the kind of pure, soothing  and sedative ambient music that has the same cleansing and restorative effect as you experience after a good night’s slumber.


The music of Italy’s Donato Epiro has an ambient glow that lies someway between the precision of  electronica and the more spaced out trippiness of experimental Kosmische rock.

At the same time there is an unmistakable influence of traditional acoustic folk which gives his  work a beautifully organic texture. There is a warm complexity in the way layers of  intricate instrumentation blend with more primitive rhythms.

The first album I heard of his – Sounding The Sun (Stunned Records) – remains my personal favourite. This can be downloaded from the ever indispensable Microphones in the Trees blogspot. You can also sample Donato’s work on Soundcloud.

Donato runs the label Sturmundrugs Records although his releases appear on an often bewildering range of small presses,  either  on cassette or as limited edition cdrs.

I wanted to find out a little about the man behind this music and Donato kindly agreed to answer a few questions.  (I have translated his replies from Italian). Continue reading

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