Two Winters - Instrumental Mix Jan 2016

Every week the radio show is a series of mixes, usually a sequence of mini-mixes, 3 or 4 song runs put together to fill an hour. Every now and again though, a bunch of music comes together on my radar, drawn from albums sent to me as well as my own listening habits. Over the last few months I’ve noticed an amount of striking and powerful instrumental music coming together in this orbit I call The Underground of Happiness. All of this has received an airing on the show at some point, but given that I only have 1 hour per week to play with live on air, I thought it would be good to give some of this music an extra platform.

Firstly, as you would expect, these are all instrumental pieces, which is to say they don’t contain vocals (although Polar Bear flirt with humming at one stage in ‘No more goodbyes’). In fact, most of these artists are what you would call either exclusively or largely instrumental artists. The cellist Julia Kent for example, exploring the outer reaches of her instrument brilliantly over the course of several albums now. Noveller’s Sarah Lipstate creates epic soundscapes using one electric guitar and a rack of pedals. Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson also springs to mind, someone renowned for majestic ambient instrumental works. (Funnily enough, one of the other tracks on his new album contains what sound like wordless vocal sounds. Come to think of it, I’d love to hear what he might do with an expressly “vocal” album.)

However, several of the tracks in this mix are by bands who do use vocals. The legendary Bert Jansch is of course well known as a folk singer and songwriter, as well as a wonderful guitarist, but this track is from an instrumental album of his, Avocet, from 1990 which is getting a welcome reissue on the Earth label, featuring a lovely trio arrangement with double bass and fiddle from Danny Thompson and Martin Jenkins. Slow Moving Clouds use vocals (not always with words) to great effect within Irish/Finnish traditional music settings. Tortoise are using guest vocalists for the first time on their brilliant new album The catastrophist. Needless to say, the absence of vocals in these cases draws more attention to the instrumental, rhythmic, melodic, percussive work. There’s also a share of great electronic tunes in this mix, adding to that particular canon from club to concert hall. And along with Jóhann Jóhannsson (who made the accompanying film End of summer himself), there’s some tremendous film music by Mikael Tariverdiev (someone who has been dubbed the Russian Morricone), one of my most treasured discoveries of 2015, again thanks to Earth Records.

I wouldn’t make any great claims as to a binding theme for these tracks. The artists featured come from a wide variety of influences and backgrounds. But we are in winter and many of the tunes do have a certain chilly feel, in one way or another. So I decided to go with the title of Laura Cannell’s piece – it’s more or less the centrepiece of the mix – as an overall title. Her double recorder has an absolutely heart-piercing quality which seems an appropriate representation of the mix as a whole and the season we're in. Other than that, the only thing in common is that everything here has been released (or reissued) in the last 6 months or so.

One final point. I’d hope that if you come here for Tortoise, or Floating Points, or Benoit Pioulard, or whoever, that you’ll stay for the rest and discover something great you hadn’t heard before. That’s what makes the world go around after all.

Enjoy.

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Playlist

Floating Points – Nespole (Pluto)
Tortoise – The catastrophist (Thrill Jockey)
Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express – Junun brass (Nonesuch)
Yorkston Thorne Khan – Vachaspati Kaavya (Domino)
Polar Bear – No more goodbyes (The Leaf Label)
Noveller – Gathering the elements (Fire Records)
Julia Kent – Frost and furrow (The Leaf Label)
Laura Cannell – Two winters (Front & Follow)
Bert Jansch – Osprey (Earth Recordings)
Brave Timbers – After the rain (Gizeh Records)
Slow Moving Clouds – The death of Staker Wallace (Paper Palace)
Jóhann Jóhannsson – End of summer Part 3 (Sonic Pieces, from the soundtrack of the film End of summer)
Matthew Bourne – Daniziel (The Leaf Label)
Phantom Horse – Hector (Umor Rex)
Benoit Pioulard – Ante (Morr Music)
1115 – The drowned world I (Alien Transistor)
Mikael Tariverdiev – Moscow morning (variation) (Earth Recordings, from the soundtrack of the film I am a tree)

Two Winters - Instrumental Mix Jan 2016 by The Underground Of Happiness on Mixcloud

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