February 2011 Touch Newsletter

Welcome to the 56th Touch Newsletter. We may appear to have been quiet, but behind the curtains it has been busy... This first newsletter of 2011 will outline forthcoming releases for the next season as well as provide usual updates of what is new.

First, a new release; a vinyl edition of Jóhann Jóhannsson's acclaimed "Virthulegu Forsetar" [Touch # TO:64LP] is now available.

A new release by Carl Michael von Hausswolff - his first full-length album for Touch - is available to pre-order now, for release in March. See below for info.

Oh, and those naughty Worms have started a subscription service... Brace yourself for new Tapeworm releases from Deceh, Philip Marshall & Andrew Poppy, Peter Hope-Evans and Francisco López & Zan Hoffmann imminently.

A second newsletter will follow in early March with a new TouchRadio by Hild Sofie Tafjord and some exciting TouchRadio news...

We are working on various other items for future release: the Touch Sevens series continues with offerings from Bruce Gilbert, Biosphere, Rosy Parlane and Mike Harding. This year sees new albums from Biosphere, BJNilsen, Chris Watson and Fennesz Sakamoto, amongst others. Fennesz also releases a 4-track solo EP in June called "Seven Stars" and Jana Winderen is working on a 10" vinyl only release. Details of all these and more to follow when ready...

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TO:64LP | Jóhann Jóhannsson "Virthulegu Forsetar"

Double Vinyl
Photography by Jon Wozencroft
Cut by Jason @ Transition

Track Listing:
A. Part 1 (14:51)
B. Part 2 (14:14)
C. Part 3 (14:45)
D. Part 4 (21:45)

This is his second album for Touch, after the highly acclaimed 'Englabörn' [Touch # TO:52], about which The Wire said: "...expressive leitmotifs that unveil a profound sadness without ever wallowing in pathos" and Boomkat called it "a work of rare beauty and ... a rare jewel". 'Virthulegu forsetar' contains one hour-long piece for 11 brass players, percussion, electronics, organs and piano. The piece had its live debut in Hallgrimskirkja, a large church in Reykjavik and the city's towering edifice, and was named "the most memorable musical event of 2003" in Iceland's leading newspaper. The piece has Englabörn's quiet, elegiac beauty, but abandons the brevity of the first album's exquisite miniatures in favor of an extended form that reveals a long, slow process. A simple theme played by the brass section is repeated throughout the entire piece using different voicings and instrumentation. As the piece goes on, the tempo slows down, until it is extremely slow. Around the middle of the piece, the tempo starts to speed up again, until it reaches the original tempo. Space and the sense of place were very important in the performance and recording of the piece. Players were positioned both in front and at the back of the church and two organs were used, again, one in front and one at the back. This created a sense of immersion and a sound that is powerful without ever being 'loud'.

Jóhann writes: "During the first live performance of the piece, the church ceiling was filled with blue helium balloons which were timed to fall extremely slowly to the ground during the performance and scatter among the audience. To our pleasant surprise, the balloons reacted with the sound, falling with greater frequency as the volume increased. During the performance the light slowly changed through the church windows as the sun went down. The concert was fairly late, ending at around midnight and it being a bright, cloudless spring evening, the combination of all these physical and natural processes made for quite a memorable moment". "I had a number of things going through my mind during the writing of the piece, some of them being an obsession with entropy, Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49", postal horns, cybernetics, small birds, heat, space, energy, "singularities", Nietzsche's Eternal recurrence, Moebius strips. I'm absolutely not interested in imposing any one 'meaning' on the piece, but all these things were flying around somewhere in my head. A casual listener might categorize the piece as ambient or meditative, but I think this is really wrong - for me it's much more about chaos and tension rather than harmony. I go through many different emotions listening to the piece, veering from intense joy to acute sadness. The central point is perhaps how a very simple thing can change by going through a very simple process - something about change and transformation and the inevitability of chaos."

"Virthulegu forsetar" is performed by the Caput Ensemble, conducted by Gudni Franzson, with Skuli Sverrison on bass and electronics, Matthias M.D. Hemstock on bells, glockenspiel and electronics, Hordur Bragason and Gudmundur Sigurdsson on organs and Johann Johannsson on piano and electronics.

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic musician, composer, producer and an active member of the country's artistic community (as co-founder of the Kitchen Motors label / think tank / art collective, founder member of Apparat Organ Quartet and also as a serial collaborator). His lushly sophisticated and hauntingly melodic music has been quietly bewitching listeners for some time - with several full-lengths released on Touch and 4AD labels, as well as numerous scores for for film and theatre.

Buy Jóhann Jóhannsson "Virthulegu forsetar" [Double Vinyl] in the TouchShop
Buy the "Virthulegu forsetar" and "Englabörn" Vinyl Bundle in the TouchShop

TO:82 | CM von Hausswolff "800 000 Seconds in Harar"

CD in digipak
Available to pre-order
To be shipped week beginning 7 March 2011

Track Listing:
Track A: Day and Night 27:14
1. Day
2. Night
3. Alas! [you can hear an extract from this track here]
Track B
4. The Sleeper in the Valley 13:32

CM von Hausswolff says: "I was approached by my old friend and Radium 226.05 colleague Ulrich Hillebrand, now director of Angered Theatre in Göteborg. He informed me that there was a new play in the process of being written by author and theorist Michael Azar called "Jag är en annan" (I is another) stemming form the famous letter written by Arthur Rimbaud in his youth. The play uses Rimbaud's life from being a young poet in Charleville ending with him being the trader in Harar, Ethiopia. Hillebrand asked me if I was willing to compose the music to this play. I accepted. I told Hillebrand that I needed to use material that had something to do with Rimbaud's life and as he had connections in Ethiopia and in the small city of Harar he said: why don't you go to Harar for 10 days and see what you can find?

So I went to Addis Ababa where a guy was waiting for me and drove me the 10 hours beautiful ride to Harar. I made recordings and looked for other useful material.

There are 2 tracks. On the first track, which consists of three "parts" I have used material from Harar. The long dronic sounds are taken form an instrument that I, after searching for days, bought in Harar - it's called a "krar" and is a string instruments (it's quite clear that I have used a string instrument- also if you study Ethiopian music you came across the name of Saint Yared and he was the first to construct a notation system for music... much earlier than the Europeans). As I could not really master the actual playing of this instrument, I bought a bow for a violin and some rosin and with this I got one good tone out from this krar. Then the computer helped me to sort the modes and pitches out. On this piece there also two location recordings: the first one you hear is a recording I did outside Harar on a hill where there are next to no car sounds or other machine sounds - just the wind, insects, some kids and that (I wanted this recording to be more or less timeless or at least 19th century and forward... The second location recording was done in the night in my hotel, where I woke up one night and became fascinated by the leaking taps in my bathroom so I decided to records this.

On the second there are only oscillators used ... several of them ... AND using one low pitch oscillator I ran a sound filtered through. This sound is the low "rhythm" you can hear, and it's a low pitched morse code signal... and the text is the famous poem Rimbaud wrote in his youth called Le Dormeur Du Val (The Sleeper in the Valley). This poem is a beautiful text starting off in the nature, where a person is sleeping in the grass. Slowly Rimbaud zooms in and we read that it's a soldier and at the very end we are told he has two red wounds on his chest - the guy is dead!"

Arthur Rimbaud lived in Harar from 1884 until shortly before his death in 1891.

This is Carl Michael von Hausswolff's first album for Touch, but the connection goes back many years, of course. Carl Michael von Hausswolff was born in 1956 in Linköping, Sweden. He lives and works in Stockholm. Since the end of the 1970s, Hausswolff has worked as a composer using the tape recorder as his main instrument and as a conceptual visual artist working with performance art, light and sound installations and photography. You can read a full biog on his website here.

Pre-order CM von Hausswolff "800 000 Seconds in Harar" in the TouchShop

SUB#10 | The Tapeworm - 10 Tape Subscription Service

A Bunch o' Worms...

We are offering a Subscription Service for The Tapeworm cassette series.

This offers you a guaranteed supply of the limited editions at a discounted rate. If you bought 10 cassettes individually it would cost, including postage charges, £6.00 more than by subscribing to this service. We guarantee to produce at least 10 cassettes in 2011, starting with tapes in March by Deceh and Philip Marshall (with Andrew Poppy). Other tapes in the pipeline include Francisco Lopez & Zan Hoffman, Peter Hope-Evans and CM von Hausswolff... Other editions to be announced in good time!

NB: buy two subscriptions, and you get yourself 20 tapes, saving a whopping £12. Bargain!

Support the worm! Save some dosh!!
The cassette will never die!!!

Subscribe to The Tapeworm's 10 Tape Subscription Service

The previous Touch NewsLetter can be found here.