The Album Review Club - Week #44 (page 468) - Beautiful Freak

GoatersLeftShin

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As I've said many times before, these threads throw up some very interesting albums. I'd never heard of the artist, the album and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I like it when I get something like this to listen to.

I loved it.

I put it on this morning whilst working and was very surprised. As you'll know from my first pick (Planetary Unfolding), I'm partial to ambient music. As soon as I heard the first few tracks I knew I'd love it. It's different to what I'd normally listen to. A few years ago I'd have dismissed this as New Age nonsense and given it a 2 (maybe), but as I've got older I've really started to enjoy these stripped back pieces as they are very, very evocative.

I've never been to Orkney, but I could easily imagine walking along the beach and glancing up at some neolithic settlement whilst listening to this album. And after all, doesn't great music do that to you?

This was definitely something out of my comfort zone. Normally in the past, I've taken a few songs off some of the albums but in this case, I couldn't do that - I'd have to listen to the full album.

It will be going on again tomorrow morning whilst I concentrate. It's beautiful.

8/10
 

BimboBob

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Listen, Can you smell something?
As I've said many times before, these threads throw up some very interesting albums. I'd never heard of the artist, the album and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I like it when I get something like this to listen to.

I loved it.

I put it on this morning whilst working and was very surprised. As you'll know from my first pick (Planetary Unfolding), I'm partial to ambient music. As soon as I heard the first few tracks I knew I'd love it. It's different to what I'd normally listen to. A few years ago I'd have dismissed this as New Age nonsense and given it a 2 (maybe), but as I've got older I've really started to enjoy these stripped back pieces as they are very, very evocative.

I've never been to Orkney, but I could easily imagine walking along the beach and glancing up at some neolithic settlement whilst listening to this album. And after all, doesn't great music do that to you?

This was definitely something out of my comfort zone. Normally in the past, I've taken a few songs off some of the albums but in this case, I couldn't do that - I'd have to listen to the full album.

It will be going on again tomorrow morning whilst I concentrate. It's beautiful.

8/10
Have a listen to the other 2 albums in the triology mate. Equally beautiful.
 

mancity2012_eamo

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As I've said many times before, these threads throw up some very interesting albums. I'd never heard of the artist, the album and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I like it when I get something like this to listen to.

I loved it.

I put it on this morning whilst working and was very surprised. As you'll know from my first pick (Planetary Unfolding), I'm partial to ambient music. As soon as I heard the first few tracks I knew I'd love it. It's different to what I'd normally listen to. A few years ago I'd have dismissed this as New Age nonsense and given it a 2 (maybe), but as I've got older I've really started to enjoy these stripped back pieces as they are very, very evocative.

I've never been to Orkney, but I could easily imagine walking along the beach and glancing up at some neolithic settlement whilst listening to this album. And after all, doesn't great music do that to you?

This was definitely something out of my comfort zone. Normally in the past, I've taken a few songs off some of the albums but in this case, I couldn't do that - I'd have to listen to the full album.

It will be going on again tomorrow morning whilst I concentrate. It's beautiful.

8/10
I listened to Planetary Unfolding while in bed with Covid, to the best of my memory, and was totally open to the whole experience. I gave it a favourable review as far as I remember, although I knew I’d never hear it again.
I’ve given a Friday night to this with a bottle of Chianti and to be fair, it really wasn’t for the mood I’m in.

As ambient music goes I found myself thinking, I’d sooner listen to Enya. It’s very pleasant, unobtrusive, but ultimately bland.
I will listen again but yet another album that I’m scratching my head as to what mood or occasion I would need to be in for this to compliment.

I hate scoring this stuff. It’s not fair on people who have a subjective view on what is clearly their wonderful memories.

I’m considering opting out of here for a while. I’ll listen in but might pass on the critiques.
 

GoatersLeftShin

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I listened to Planetary Unfolding while in bed with Covid, to the best of my memory, and was totally open to the whole experience. I gave it a favourable review as far as I remember, although I knew I’d never hear it again.
I’ve given a Friday night to this with a bottle of Chianti and to be fair, it really wasn’t for the mood I’m in.

As ambient music goes I found myself thinking, I’d sooner listen to Enya. It’s very pleasant, unobtrusive, but ultimately bland.
I will listen again but yet another album that I’m scratching my head as to what mood or occasion I would need to be in for this to compliment.

I hate scoring this stuff. It’s not fair on people who have a subjective view on what is clearly their wonderful memories.

I’m considering opting out of here for a while. I’ll listen in but might pass on the critiques.
I feel it's more interesting when you get something that is completely different. Rusalka was something I had no idea about, but it forces you to think a bit about your score for example. This album is similar because I kind of class this as New Age, and it's quite different from the "normal" albums we've had.

We can't like everything, but listening definitely broadens the mind.

I've really enjoyed reading everyone's reviews, especially yours mate so please don't pass! If you don't like it, try to think why and give it a score :)
 

journolud

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I never really know what to make of this sort of music, being what I guess is "ambient" or some such. If I want late night music to relax to it's usually classical and I think part of the reason for that would be the lack of human voices.

I've given Sule Skerry quite a few listens. Late at night, early in the morning and this afternoon as background while doing some work on the laptop. I've also been suitably inspired to listen to a bit more Erland Cooper on Spotify. The spoken word bits on here I can take or leave, the one he sings he doesn't sound convinced that he should be but musically is fine.

I don't know if in the vast oceans of ambient whether this is good, bad or indifferent. I liked it better than Planetary Unfolding and in fact did find some of it very good indeed. Only ever having been to Orkney once and that years ago I couldn't close my eyes and get that sense of place from the music and if someone recreated this note for note and said it was inspired by Cornwall I don't suppose it would be any different.

Leaving that sense of place aside though, as stand alone music there is nothing wrong with it, I liked it and will possibly listen to it or more Erland Cooper again even when I don't have to. Does it make me want to explore the genre further though? Well, no. Classical is still going to be my go to for relaxing late night.

I'm giving it 1 7 though and I suspect that as an example of the genre that it is better than most.
 

RobMCFC

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Sule Skerry – Erland Cooper

Thanks to @BimboBob for nominating Sule Skerry.

I love atmospheric music, admittedly mostly in a rock setting where the words and music conjure images of the landscape – whether that be the Australian desert (Midnight Oil) or more often the American heartlands (too many artists to mention).

Whilst there aren’t many words here, I found the music very enjoyable in the moody atmosphere that it conjures. The arrangement of the strings and other instruments do a brilliant job of transporting the listener to the island coast, and as Journolud has pointed out, it's not necessarily Orkney or Scotland in general, it could be any coast. Either way, I think that it achieved the objective of Mr Cooper.

I could have done without some of the spoken pieces that, at times, made it sound like an advert for a bank, but this is a minor quibble on what was otherwise a nice listen. 7/10.
 

RobMCFC

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I hate scoring this stuff. It’s not fair on people who have a subjective view on what is clearly their wonderful memories.
I’m considering opting out of here for a while. I’ll listen in but might pass on the critiques.
Each to his own, but I disagree with this. I think it is fair to score because this thread is all about nominators selecting a piece of music and others passing comment on how much they like or dislike it. The thread doesn't work if everybody likes something or everybody hates something - what makes it work is the variety of choices and peoples reactions to these choices.

I'm not for one minute trying to twist people arms into voting as opting out because of lack of time or enthusiasm during any given week is entirely understandable. However, not being familiar with a genre or worrying about hurting peoples feelings should not stop people passing comment. I think all posters have demonstrated thick enough skins to brush off negative comments on their musical tastes.

[I reserve the right to alter my view if somebody like Nick Kyrgios turns up].
 

FogBlueInSanFran

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I love a good ambient, and as I've mentioned, Brian Eno's "Music For Airports" -- arguably the first true popular album in the genre (and both "first" and "popular" are definitely arguable) -- sits on my shelf and remains one of my top 50 all time. Moreover, I have at least another couple of dozen records in the vein (defined broadly), a lot of them American from the old Wyndham Hill label. So unlike opera, this is a category I feel better-situated to comment upon.

My biggest issue here is simple: strings and vocals need to be added to ambient like salt and pepper to a meal -- gingerly, and with care. This record has somewhat too much salt and maybe slightly overdoes the pepper. A subtle, drifting effect is what I like, and percussion can be a part of that, but the more instrumental/voice effects are added, the more an ambient risks subtraction by addition. And I found that just a bit too often the case here.

But I enjoyed this record. The piano motifs are truly beautiful and sometimes even moving. I particularly liked "Haar" -- a lovely, simple opener -- the sense of foreboding in "Lump O' Sea", and "Creel" (where the strings are used to a swirling, atmospheric effect). This leads me to conclude that if I listened to all of Cooper's catalogue, I could build a really terrific playlist that I’d spend a pleasant hour-plus relaxing to.

Vocals can work okay with ambient, but artists in this genre have to be careful to avoid the "Arwen" effect -- that is, what happens when "Enya's music becomes a person" ala Arwen, Liv Tyler's elf character in Lord of the Rings (credit to YouTube's Pitch Meeting for coming up with this amusing term). "First of the Tides" is an actual song, as opposed to an ambient interlude IMO, and it's quite pleasant. But the spoken word aspects of "Flattie" don't really work as well -- to me they distract rather than add. The rest of the atmospherics of that piece sound just fine. I also found the vocals unnecessary on the title track, which doesn't really quite merge well with the overall effect of the record.

I am especially sensitive to (what I think are) the differences between the cello and the violin -- the cello can really contribute to ambient, but the violin is a screeching instrument in the high octaves which requires precision and skill to go from noisy to beautiful, and it doesn't work well enough here. Now I am ASSUMING I know the difference -- one of you may tell me I do not. Violin can also country-fy or folk-ize a song like the opening of "Sillocks", when a cello would have been a better choice, more notable later in the song. I loved the piano and percussive effect of "Spoot Ebb" as an example, but then comes the violin to muddle the underlying rhythmic drive I enjoyed. Now that may be precisely the effect Cooper was going for, but it just doesn't appeal to me. Where added gently -- as in "Groatie Buckies" -- I found the effect more pleasant.

I'm in no position to understand how this music reflects the particular atmosphere of Orkney, especially given my earlier faux pas of calling it "The Orkneys", having not been there. So to those for whom the place is special, there may be an extra point or two here for connectivity/nostalgia. For me, this is between a 6 and a 7. I want to round up because I suspect Cooper's intentions are good, and there are some moments of real beauty. But I think I'd piecemeal this rather than listen to it all, so I'll go 6.
 
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bennyboy

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Not my usual type.First listen to an ambient record.Not sure what to make of it.
Parts good parts no so.
Spoken word works in some parts,piano in a lot violin not so for me.
Cannot see me in a rush to listen to some more than the 3 listens I gave this but not too bad if that makes sense.
5/10.
 

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