Monday, 7 July 2008
Check out Dan's livejournal here: http://danscahffer.livejournal.com/ and his website: http://www.danielschaffer.com
This guy is terrifyingly gifted - oh... and he's a nice bloke and he loves my music (yep, he's faultless!)
Friday, 27 June 2008
I've been lending my own voice this week, to a piece by The Gild (a new project by Tony Wakeford and Reeve Malka) nice little poem about the corruption of power and wealth. The vocals are recorded but I've not heard the music yet - so something to look forward to.
In other news Moon Tremors (from the forthcoming album Axis Vein) is now available on the Earth Monkey Productions 50:50 compilation
Also - the 'Slow Corrosion' ep is now available
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
I live on a hill and every day I gaze out my windows at the castle, the town, the Gwendraeth Valley and Estuary, past Pembrey Mountain and forest.... I'm very very lucky to live here...
Sooo - with the history of this town in the back of my mind I began shaping Rainier's sounds, listening to the ghosts and sculpting their tales
We now have ten tracks which we're both happy with and are in the process of making decisions about releasing as an album - dealing with artwork decisions etc...
More news soon - but I have to say - I'm really pleased with this one!
Friday, 13 June 2008
yep - this...
...and this, is what I do in my spare time!
This week was also notable for us (Mark and I) shooting some footage for a promo video for Splinters from my next album Axis Vein. The video is being directed by Yokna Patofa in Japan. She asked us to shoot against a blue background, however it wasn't til we looked we realised we don't actually own anything blue - except an old rug for the kids to wipe their feet on as they walk through the door. So I found myself lipsynching in front of my grotty door mat gaffer taped to an old wardrobe - very glamorous! Still the completed video should be incredible, Yokna sent me some stills that look stunning.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
So what have I been up to? Good question! (even when I ask it myself!)
This morning I've been working on promo type stuff for the new Clutter vs Susan Matthews ep. It's coming out in a couple of weeks via Earth Monkey Productions. A very new experience for me. I'm so used to doing everything myself (music, producing, mixing, photography, sleeves, printing, manufacturing, promotion, distribution etc etc blah blah blah) it's a curious feeling sitting back and trusting someone else to take care of all that. Shaun Blezard (Mr Earth Monkey) is an absolute star though, so I feel relaxed about the whole situation.
For instance - here's his sleeve design:
see what I mean? the guy's a goodun
and come to think of it, so is the ep
four tracks of Clutter remixes of Matthews' sounds - the title track 'Slow Corrosion' will be up on myspace soon
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Earth Monkey Productions have announced the release of The Resting Bench Remix Project Vol.1 The project involved encouraging an eclectic mix of artists to remix music from Clutter and Ann Wilson's The Resting Bench.
Susan's contribution is Sanctuary (aka 'Susan's Sanctuary')
Download the entire album for FREE from http://www.earthmp.com/
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
The Silent Architect/Silent Variations
The Silent Architect and Silent Variations, its corresponding EP of outtakes and alternate versions, represent Susan Matthews’ second album and EP releases of 2007 and her fourth full-length album for Siren Wire Recordings in three years. With every release Matthews introduces new facets of her musical ability to her listeners, in this case a gentler, more serene aspect not immediately evident in her previous work.
Matthews’ work is always intensely heartfelt and often tackles personal issues and feelings with passionate conviction. Frequently dark and impassioned but always experimental, her work shows a musician on a journey documented by each album’s release. The Silent Architect sees Matthews strip back the layers and work at a more intricate level than ever before. Her recognizable style is still very much intact and the experimentation is still there but the whole mood and feel of the album is calmer and more relaxed. The opening tracks, “Dawn” and “Spring Dancing,” set the mood nicely with a chorus of birdsong accompanied by the folky harmonies of guest vocalist Hoel le Quenven followed by the soothing tones of Matthews herself. Maintaining the gentle mood is “The Mariner’s Lament,” a mournful track featuring melancholy piano set to the sound of waves on the shore, seagulls crowing and a buoy clanging. Although this track is essentially classical in nature and consists entirely of just Matthews at the piano, the sentiment is one of sadly reflecting at sailors long lost at sea, almost as an ode to them and those they left behind. For “Spiegelkabinett” and “Almost February” Matthews sets poet Alexander Booth’s prose to her own music, the former a cascading flow of hypnotic chimes and the latter focusing solely on the heartfelt longing in Matthews’ reading. It is not until “Through Form” that we see Matthews’ familiar experimental leanings start to show through, the mix of le Quenven’s harmonies, spliced chimes and percussive elements further depicting the stripped back nature of The Silent Architect. Stripped back further still is the piano-based track “Weals,” with its careful use of space, silence and the creakings of the piano as it is played. Although one of the most minimal tracks on the whole album “Weals” exhibits an intimate insight into the contemplative thoughts and feelings of the player. Continuing the theme of utilizing field recordings into the album is “Samhain Lullaby;” the crackle of a roaring fire vividly juxtaposing a baby crying, the electronic sounds of conflict and the fragile French meanderings of le Quenven apparently trying to shield the child from the dangers lying outside with a gentle song and comforting safety of home. Le Quenven’s manipulated harmonies also appear on “Keel,” initially a sinister track of dark intent featuring torrential rain and a thunderstorm that takes on an entirely more welcoming tone with the introduction of Matthews’ gentle piano playing. Closing the album is the hymn-like “The Passing” with its sombre clock chimes and Matthews’ gentle harmonies.
The Silent Architect’s sister EP, Silent Variations, features alternate versions of four tracks from the album. Released at the same time as the album, Silent Variations gives Matthews an opportunity to experiment further with some of the album tracks and present them in a different light. The alternate version of “Weals” for example is essentially the same as the album version but augmented by a low buzzing drone while “Spiegelkabinett” is slightly more stripped back and less layered than its album counterpart. “Through Form to Form,” one of the more experimental tracks on The Silent Architect, loses its underlying organ-like drone to emphasize its more experimental qualities and effectively change it’s ending, putting the whole track in a different context to the album version. The Silent Variations version of “The Mariner’s Lament” entitled “Lily (The Mariner’s Lament)” strips away the field recordings and leaves just Matthews’ piano playing in its full glory, switching the mood of the track to one that could quite easily represent the sound of an after dinner soiree in a salubrious drawing room many years ago. Closing the EP is “Keel (Impression)” which dispenses with le Quenven’s slightly disturbing opening harmonies and thunderclaps throughout, transforming the track into an entirely more comforting prospect complete with the sound of gentle rainfall.
The Silent Architect represents a real change in focus for Matthews; gone are the complex intertwining layers of dark sound, the emphasis being on gentle minimal sounds accompanied by carefully chosen field recordings. The end result is an interesting one as Matthews’ is still able to create an album that, while it is markedly different in content and style to her previous albums, is still very much recognizable as her work. Silent Variations takes the concept a stage further and makes subtle but significant changes to a handful of album tracks, often changing the mood and atmosphere completely.
Following Matthews on her journey of discovery and exploring her next release is often a revelation as you never quite know what to expect but you know it will be equally as captivating and absorbing as her previous output. Never one to sit still for very long, Matthews is already hard at work on her next album and has a slew of other projects in the pipeline including compilation tracks, a handful of collaborations and a remix album. Matthews is a truly talented artist who is constantly pushing the boundaries of her musical style.
Paul Lloyd, Igloo Magazine, March 2008
Saturday, 8 March 2008
The mix features over 40 minutes of music culled from four of Susan's cd releases and was originally only available via download (it proved to be popular, receiving close to 100 downloads in 24 hours!)
Purchase details at www.sirenwire.com
Sunday, 27 January 2008
by Paul Lloyd
Susan Matthews began teaching herself to read and play music by ‘borrowing’ her sister’s music instruction book and school recorder. From there she progressed to classical guitar but disliked the formality of the teaching. At the age of eleven she started taking piano lessons and, although she lacked the commitment to practice for hours a day, found that she had an aptitude for and enjoyed playing the instrument.
Although, as a teenager, Matthews lacked the self-confidence to perform publicly she started composing her own music. Later, in her early twenties, after an unfortunate accident at work meant she lost her job, she returned to playing piano. As she couldn’t work she was able to be much more disciplined in her playing and practiced for hours a day, even writing her own short pieces for piano.
After seeking advice from her former piano teacher, Matthews decided to sign up to a classical music course at her local college. Having not taken the conventional route to further music education she found it hard work but it did help clarify the musical direction she wanted to take. It was at this point that Matthews’ interest in experimental music developed, she purchased a 4-track recorder and limited exposure to artists such as Steve Reich and John Cage further solidified this belief. Matthews music is often likened to the works of such legendary avant-garde and underground composers along with
bands such as Current 93, Coil or even Throbbing Gristle but her music is actually all her own making.
“I’m not familiar with the work of the majority of the bands/artists I’ve been compared to. I came to this via an aborted classical music education coupled with an interest in popular music. When I first began experimenting musically I was very conscious of the need to allow my sound to develop very naturally, it would be very easy to directly copy someone else but I can’t imagine feeling creatively satisfied by doing things that way. For a few years I consciously put myself into a bubble, I switched myself off to other people’s music so that I could focus on my own in a very pure way, to really discover my 'sound’.”
Once she had completed the course she took the decision to move to Hull and pursue her interest in experimental forms of music composition by enrolling on a course in Phonic Art. It was while living in Hull and studying experimental music forms that Matthews composed her debut album “SirenWire69”, an album that she notes reflects her environment and surroundings as much as the musical style she had cultivated to that point.
“Musically I’m incredibly influenced by the environment around me. When I began working on my debut CD ‘SirenWire69’ I lived in Hull. It was quite a harsh, stormy, industrial landscape and that certainly permeated my work. There used to be these
incredible sounds echoing around the city, the sounds of industry, of cranes and lorries. Also, the storms there were incredible. Because the landscape is basically flat you can hear thunder rolling in for miles that made a huge impression on me.”
It was this course that gave Matthews the freedom to explore the classic experimental music that she found so interesting. It also provided her with a new academic environment much more conducive to such ideas. It was this freedom that provided the
catalyst for the natural progression from traditional piano to electronic composition as a means of developing her sound further. More recently she has also switched to recording and mixing using music editing software as this provides further freedom to experiment sonically.
Always searching for outlets for her music and after receiving a somewhat negative response from the music media in general, Matthews was offered the opportunity to produce music for a multi-media art exhibition. In contrast to the reception from the
music media, the reaction from the art community was perhaps a little surprising. “The response I got was wonderful. I couldn’t believe it. The people I met were so positive and encouraging about my work. So I stuck with that side of things for a while. I thoroughly enjoyed it too”, explains Matthews. “It gave me an opportunity to develop my work in a reasonably supportive, open-minded environment and that helped me to gain a lot more confidence in my music.”
Having contributed to a number of exhibitions and art installations around the UK and beyond in the past, Matthews is still involved in this form of artistic expression and has even been recognised for her work in the field. “There is one project I’m particularly proud of and that’s last years ‘Women in New Music Festival’,” explains Matthews. “The festival itself ran in California but the thing I‘m most proud of is being selected for their ‘On The Road’ project where basically they put together a programme, by select artists from six years of the festival, which they took to a variety of worldwide venues. It was an
incredible compliment for me to have my work on show alongside artists like Diamanda Galas and Meredith Monk.”
Although her work regularly appears in art galleries and exhibitions around the world, Matthews is yet to tour or play live dates in her own right. Largely due to other commitments and family life, the prospect of being away from home for extended periods of time is a difficult proposition. With offers and requests coming in from the UK, Germany and the USA it is something Matthews is seriously considering for the future. “[A production company] contacted me last year to ask if I’d be interested in putting together something for a performance in Cumbria and that really sowed the seed for me”, she says. “Although it fell through the plans are still on the table so we’ll have to see.” In the meantime, she will continue with her gallery work so that her work can at least be experienced outside of the recorded medium even she is only present ‘in spirit’.
When queried on what form a live appearance might take, Matthews comes up with a typically creative idea for performing based on a previous work she undertook. Never one for convention and always looking for new and interesting ways to use and present sound, Matthews sees the live environment as an opportunity to further push the boundaries of the traditional concert format and add an almost performance art element to proceedings. “I’d like to do something very experimental with the piano. For instance, I created a piece for the Soundcafe project in Scotland, where I directly plucked the pianos strings. I’d like to do something like that live.”
In keeping with her drive to explore sound, improvisation and experiment with possibilities, Matthews creative process can be either carefully mapped out and methodical or drawn out and progressive, based around an idea or borne out of her
experimentation on the piano and developed from there.
“Sometimes it just starts with a sound and nothing more. Just a sound that catches my ear, which I’ll sit and listen to, sometimes for long periods until ideas begin to develop. Sometimes, it’s all there in my head, sometimes I know what I want to say and how I want to say it and it’s just a case of setting up the equipment and getting on with it“, she explains. “‘Joy’s Farewell’1 was like that. But that was planned quite carefully. I generated the percussion idea first and built the track up around that. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to say lyrically, so it was a very easy track to put together. Even
within that methodology I still allow myself freedom, I still try to push the boundaries of the original idea.”
Following the progression of her first three albums and the “Lost Sorrows” EP that bridges the gap between her second album “bruiser” and her latest “Hope-Bound” it is her recent work that is the more positive sounding of the set. All of her albums have been intensely personal and impassioned works and while “Hope-Bound” is very recognisable as Matthews’ work and bears all the hallmarks of the previous two albums, it also marks a progression in sound to a smoother more positive sound. Thematically, there are still some very intense feelings and moods explored in her music and it maintains its distinctive experimental avant-garde structure. “In terms of the general ‘feel’ of an album, I do plan that in advance. ‘SirenWire69’ was intended from the start to be aurally ‘intense’ whereas ‘Hope-Bound’ was intended to be much more ‘open’”, says
Matthews. “I think ‘Hope-Bound’ is a very different creature from ‘bruiser’ and ‘Lost Sorrows.’ It’s a much more positive album, thematically - and that is reflected in the title. That was a very conscious decision, to project a more positive energy with this album.”
Matthews is always working on something new whether it is a collaboration, compilation tracks, a gallery project or working on new material. Unbelievably, her next album “The Silent Architect” is already complete and scheduled for release in the next few months with an EP of alternate versions of some of the album tracks entitled “Silent Variations” to be released simultaneously. Expect “The Silent Architect” to be a further progression from “Hope-Bound” with a focus on field recordings and sparse electronic arrangements. Hot on the heels of that album, Matthews has also been compiling remixes of some of her tracks by the artists such as Tony Wakeford, Rainier Lericolais, Fabrizio Mondonese Palumbo, Shaun Blezard, Alistair Crosbie and Nick Grey entitled “Motion.Silence.Echo” for release as a remix album early in 2008. Not content with that, she has also been busy working on a number of collaborative projects, a re-release of one her earlier EPs, a remix for US band Marble Blade and some compilation tracks. Listening to her music and reading the long list of upcoming and “in progress” projects on her website, it is clear that Matthews’ passion for music and sonic experimentation is still as strong as ever and each project documents her progression down the road of artistic exploration as she develops new ideas and takes her music in new and ever-interesting directions. Based on the work she has produced to date it would be wise to catch up with her and join her on the journey.
1 “Joy’s Farewell” is a track from the 2007 album “Hope-Bound” on Sirenwire. Out now. www.sirenwire.com
Connexion Bizarre Webzine, Oct 2007