Princess Ghibli

by Imaginary Flying Machines (2011, Coroner Records)

On the one hand, you’ve got the films of Studio Ghibli, arguably some of the most beloved films in all of cinema. Gorgeous artwork and animation, compelling mythologies, and well-drawn (npi) characters aside, I’m convinced that one of the reasons for Studio Ghibli’s success is their soundtracks, many of them composed by Joe Hisaishi, whose exotic melodies and sweeping arrangements are the very definition of inimitable.

On the other hand, you have the Italian metal label Coroner Records, home to artists including Blood Stain Child, Destrage, Breach The Void, and Disarmonia Mundi.

On the surface, these two things have nothing in common, and any attempt to bring them together would be like combining matter and antimatter, i.e., mutual annihilation. And yet, the universe is a strange, strange place and sometimes, these combinations work out in ways that no one could have ever foreseen. Which brings us to Princess Ghibli, where Imaginary Flying Machines—a collaborative project featuring Disarmonia Mundi, Blood Stain Child, Destrage, Living Corpse, and Neroargento, as well as various vocalists—turns in death metal covers of some of the most beloved songs in the Studio Ghibli catalog.

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All Delighted People EP

by Sufjan Stevens (2010, Asthmatic Kitty)

Raise your hand if you saw this coming, because I sure didn’t. Earlier this month, Sufjan Stevens announced an October/November tour—an announcement that I admittedly didn’t pay much attention to because he’s not really coming anywhere close to my neck of the woods (and I just don’t have much time for concertgoing these days). And what’s more, I’d become a little Sufjan’d out, particularly after the indulgent BQE.

And then Asthmatic Kitty broke the news: a nearly hour-long EP of brand new material that was free for the listening (and that could be had for a nominal fee). The promise of new music from the man was too much to pass up—the old Sufjan fan inside of me dies hard, I guess—and so I hoofed it on over to Bandcamp to check out All Delighted People. And suffice to say, I’m hanging my head in shame, for I should not have let my faith in the man slip. (If that makes me sound like a fanboy, then so be it.)

At first blush, All Delighted People seems like classic Sufjan. It’s sprawling and epic, musically and thematically, but quite poignant and intimate at the same time. However, careful listening will reveal subtle breaks from the Sufjan releases of yore. For starters, the production is thinner in places, even brittle. Sufjan’s inimitable arrangements are compressed and more surface-level, which means the EP sounds more “in your face”, relatively speaking. Which seems apt because musically speaking, this is some of the most adventurous music that Sufjan has put to tape yet.

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Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything In Between

by Keith Canisius (2010, Pad & Pen Records)

I first became aware of Keith Canisius in 2007, when Darla released the eponymous debut from Rumskib, his shoegazer project with vocalist Tine Louise Kortermand. What immediately struck me then was the sense of enthusiasm, ebullience, and yes, even joy that pervades Canisius’ music. There’s an infectious, starry-eyed giddiness to his swirling guitars and soaring vocals, such that no matter how obviously indebted he is to the great ‘gazer bands of yore, you can’t help but break into a smile and nod along as his music fills your ears.

That sense continues on through Canisius’ solo works, including last year’s Waves. However, with Openness Is Dreaminess & Everything In Between, I get the feeling that Canisius is maturing a little and looking to shed a little of the foolishness of his youth.

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In Sea Remixes

by Various Artists (2010, Silber Records)

I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a big fan of remixes. I understand the need and desire to pay some homage to music that you find inspiring and beautiful. And given our society’s predilection for recontextualizing and reiterating pop culture in general, remixing sort of seems to be the post-modern de rigueur thing to do. But maybe I subscribe too heavily to the auteur idea for artists in general, that the vision put forth by the original artist is the authoritative one—that it’s canon, if you will—and that other versions are, therefore, pretenders to the throne.

That’s one huge generalization, of course, and I don’t mean to whitewash all remixes in existence, nor do I intend to dismiss those with mad remixing skills. But again, generally speaking, if I have to choose between picking up an album of remixes, and getting an album of brand new material—either by the remixer(s) or the remixee(s)—new material will win out almost every time. I yearn for something new, something fresh, something original—and remixes just never quite leave me satisfied beyond the initial piquing of curiosity.

Which brings us to In Sea Remixes, a collection of remixes of Aarktica’s In Sea. And in addition to my normal dislike of remixes, I was especially anxious regarding this particular collection, for two reasons.

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Drowned In Light

by Manual (2010, Darla Records)

When I last reviewed Manual (aka, Jonas Munk), it was for 2007’s Lost Days, Open Skies And Streaming Tides, a two-disc collection of b-sides, compilation tracks, remixes, and other odds and ends. And by the time I was finished with that release, I concluded, or at least hoped, that it was a harbinger of sorts, that it represented a desire by Munk to clear out any musical baggage and start exploring some new sonic territory.

As much as I like Munk’s music in spirit and theory, the truth is that a little bit of Manual goes a long way for me. I love his ethereal guitars and instrumental soundscapes, but they’re so smooth and crisp, so polished and well-produced, that they’ve always blended together in the long run. As such, I found myself eagerly anticipating something truly new from the guy.

2008 brought us Confluence, another one of Manual’s more ambient-minded releases—and his weakest of that sort (I’ve always preferred 2004’s The North Shore for my Manual bliss-out moments). But now it’s 2010 and Drowned In Light is here, and it represents the first real evidence that Munk is venturing towards a new place, musically. Which makes the album fascinating but also frustrating, because he’s not there yet.

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