Kevin Ayers 1944-2013

Kevin AyersKevin Ayers passed away in his sleep on February 18th. He was 68 years old.

MOJO has posted a sincerely touching and thoughtful remembrance.

My closest encounter with Kevin was in 1993 at a solo acoustic show at the much-missed Club Komotion in San Francisco. There was a seemingly bottomless glass of (I think) sherry on the stool next to him, and as night progressed he became quite…relaxed. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to forgive him when he forgot the words to “Lady Rachel”.

The mood in the room– essentially a long, narrow, dusty, warehouse-storefront rehearsal space/studio with tattered couches and 2×4-and-plywood risers– was happy. You got the sense the audience knew this wasn’t the sort of thing that would happen again (or be forgotten!), and everyone appreciated that.

Keith Kenniff “Branches” LP (Village Green, UK)

Keith Kenniff This 2011 release was just issued on LP for the first time. It appeared in my mailbox today.

It was a good day.

Keith Kenniff has put his name to a lot of enjoyable music…three of my favorite releases over the past few years, actually: Helios Ayres and Unleft, and The Last Survivor score, among others.

Branches doesn’t disappoint – it exemplifies many of the pleasing elements I’ve come to expect from him.

Keith bases many of his compositions around what sounds like music-box-inspired sequences, yet the oft-electronic spines of the songs never come across as mechanized. There’s a hazy yet crystalline gauze overlaying the melodies that invokes something intangibly, achingly sweet. Kenniff has a singular talent for making electronic rhythms positively organic, and his command of computer-generated textures is inspiringly human.

His more classically-based compositions sometimes have a pianistic Glassworks vibe to them, albeit with more of a cinematic scope. Sometimes these remind me of a humbler take on the quieter pieces on Henry Skoff-Torgue’s Le Prince Apatride album, or the combination of whimsy and thoughtfullness distinguished by Roedelius’ Jardin Au Fou. (And yes, Max Richter comes to mind, but one of my resolutions this year was to stop comparing everything I like that doesn’t have drums or guitar to Max Richter. Maybe I should just put him in the journospeak hall of fame, or something). 

Kenniff makes much of his music available via CD-resolution FLAC on his Unseen Music site. Used vinyl copies of his catalog can go for exceedingly high prices on Discogs; CDs seem to fetch slightly more sensible amounts. He scores spots for Facebook, Apple and Google, among others. One gets the feeling this pays the bills.

The gentle and unassuming nature of Keith Kenniff’s music is appealing beyond words. This is someone whose story (and work) seems publicist-ready, yet the music benefits from an appropriately low-key approach. Unseen Music, indeed.

Somehow, overall, it just seems right.

Thanks, Keith.


Unseen Music

Village Green label

Buy Branches via Boomkat

Buy Keith Kenniff titles via Forced Exposure

Keith Kenniff on SoundCloud

Keith Kenniff on iTunes

Keith Kenniff on Wikipedia

2012 re-revisited: Jóhann Jóhannsson

Last weekendJóhann Jóhannsson Copenhagen Dreams  artwork Headphone Commute posted a thoughtful reminder about how wonderful Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Copenhagen Dreams is: melancholy, neo-classical film music at its finest. Like some of Keith Kenniff’s work– The Last Survivor comes to mind– Copenhagen possesses a touch of Satie and breaths of Roedelius and Richter. Lovely.



Mu-ziq “Somerset Avenue Tracks (1992 – 1995)” 2xLP

mu-ziq "somerset avenue" album graphic
….my imagination drifts back to a more innocent time where a certain CD diet consisted largely of Vapourspace, Ken Ishii, Irresistible Force, Locust, Aphex Twin…

Boomkat is soliciting this exclusive double-LP compilation today, but it doesn’t appear to be on sale yet on its site. Or maybe it sold out already?

[updated 2/18/13 12:13PT – my post above makes this title appear to be a Boomkat exclusive; it’s not. It can be ordered directly from the Planet Mu label]

That’s so 2012

Since self-importance is timeless, and I’m really trying to move on, honest: here’s some of what I liked best about last year.

Deepchord Presents Echospace – Silent World soundtrack 3xLP (Echospace)
Field Music – Plumb LP (Memphis Industries)
Nils Frahm – Wintermusik LP (Erased Tapes) (reissue)
Alexander Turnquist – Like Sunburned Snowflakes 12″ (VHF)
Burnt Friedman – Zokuhen LP (Nonplace)
Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – Stare 10″ (Erased Tapes)
Daniel Bjarnason and Ben Frost – Solaris soundtrack LP (Bedroom Community)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works II 3xLP (1972) (reissue)
Helios – Moiety FLAC (Unseen)
Jóhann Jóhannsson – Copenhagen Dreams soundtrack LP (NTOV)

An Introduction – Interests, Conflicts, and Conflicts of Interest

Welcome, and thanks for visiting.

On the occasion of my first post here, I’d like to get a bit heavy, if I may.

A significant portion of life involves conflict, minor and otherwise– without it we’d be boring, blissed-out protoplasm. How people handle such conflict often determines their quality of life; those who respond to conflict with grace and graciousness seem to have the inside track. Part of the key to happiness (or, at least, contentment) might be figuring out how those people do it.

Why the philosophizing? Bear with me. For a brief time in 2011 I had a radio show called, somewhat portentously (and, possibly, pretentiously), “Grace and Conflict.”

Evidently I think about this stuff a lot.

Internal conflict can certainly be a great motivator where creativity and art are concerned, sure. Brian Eno once opined that culture is “everything we don’t have to do.” I like that. Conflict’s unavoidable, but culture is an optional diversion– one which often springs from conflict.

Folks’ interests don’t necessarily define them, but they’re a big part of what make us human– by drawing a distinction between the definitions of “survival” and “living.”


There are conflicts.

And there are interests.

Sometimes the two blur. When that happens, all you can do is hang a lantern on it (or, when in Hollywood, or in media mergers, it’s called SYNERGY).

Enough introductory navelgazing. For my first post I’d like to mention two releases I like very much– one quite recent, and one from 2010:

Melissa Phillips Fits & Starts

static1.squarespaceThis late-2012 release from Pt. Richmond, California resident Melissa is a true diamond in the rough Bay-area music scene. No overdubs, no Auto-Tune, recorded live-in-the-studio by Melissa’s sweetheart (and guitarist) James DePrato, Fits & Starts is the EP you need to hear in 2013. Call it folk-rock, call it Americana, call it what you will– this is acoustic-based singer-songwriter material that blows right past trends and fashions and is gonna be around for a long, long time.

Fits & Starts is distinguished by many fine elements, but the first things I hear are Melissa’s clear soprano voice and super strong songs (“On the Verge” and “Your Heavy Heart” are my personal faves). Anyone who seeks sincere, thoughtful, emotive songwriting, effectively natural production and heartfelt, talented playing is going to find Fits & Starts’ six songs hard to put down. It was written to be performed live and Melissa makes the songs live and breathe onstage, too.

Melissa Phillips’ website

Melissa on Facebook

Melissa’s Reverb Nation page

Fits & Starts on iTunes

Fits & Starts on cdbaby

Full disclosure: Melissa is a good friend of my girlfriend and myself. Speaking of the former:

Kate Burkart Faith To Fall

My sweetheart Kate spent a good portion of 2008 through 2010 working on writing and recording Faith To Fall’s all-original songs. The album was released digitally and on CD in May, 2010.

Kate’s producer, Jerry Becker (Train co-writer/guitarist) half-kiddingly called Faith To Fall “soft rock,” during the tracking sessions, but that doesn’t do it justice. Kate loves Lucinda Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Lisa Germano and Emmylou Harris and, while those influences might be discernible, the album is Kate’s own. My favorite songs are “Shades of Gray,” “Witness”, “The High Road” and the title track.

Many of the songs detail the breakup of Kate’s previous band, but the dramatic tableau is more Shoot Out The Lights than Rumors, if you know what I’m saying. There’s a directness in Kate’s lyrical approach and a focused momentum to the pacing and arrangements that’s irresistible. It’s obvious from Kate’s writing and singing that she’s lived these songs. If you’re into a bittersweet, sincerely singer-songwriterly take on Americana and folk-rock, tinged with country melancholia, you’re going to love Faith To Fall.

There’s also a commercially unavailable instrumental CD version of the album (created for synchronization possibilities) and 24/96 pre-mastered digital files of the original vocal recording. If you’re interested in hearing these, email me.

Kate’s beginning work on a new EP with producer James DePrato; watch this space for developments.

Kate Burkart’s website

Kate on Facebook

Kate’s Bandcamp

Kate’s Reverb Nation page (coming soon)

Kate’s YouTube channel

Faith To Fall on iTunes

Faith To Fall on cdbaby

Both Kate’s and Melissa’s CDs are also available on Amazon (if you insist).