Sunday, July 5, 2015

Shadowfall Equinox I

"Mystery Dwells Deep"

[This is one post in a series about my music mixes.  The series list has links to all posts in the series and also definitions of many of the terms I use.  You may wish to read the introduction for more background.

Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

It wasn’t the first Hearts of Space program I ever heard,1 but “Shadowfall II” was probably the one which most cemented my love for that show.  To quote Stephen Hill:

No matter where you are in the United States, the arrival of autumn reveals the inescapable retreat of the sun.  Colors decline to the somber, and the music of the season is darker as well.

Slowing down after the active days of summer, we hang, suspended, for a moment, waiting for the feast and festival days to come.  On this transmission of Hearts of Space, we look for the sound of the season on a program called “Shadowfall II.”

I don’t know that I can describe this mix any better than that.  I loved that episode: I hunted it down somewhere on the Internet and downloaded it and burned it to a CD and wore that sucker out.  The music is somber, as Stephen Hill says, but it’s not actually depressing.  It’s the perfect mood music for contemplative thought, for creative endeavor, for living in the background while you go on living, not dragging you down but not lifting you up either; it doesn’t fade into the wallpaper, but rather makes you think; it doesn’t engage your brain actively, but somehow sneaks in under the radar, making your subconscious race and your dreaming self wake up and take notice.

Given how much I was influenced by Hearts of Space in general in terms of mix creation,2 and given how much I love this program in particular, I suppose it was inevitable that eventually I would try to create my own version.  Although I resisted for quite a long time: I didn’t want to bother unless I could improve on the original.  Well, I’m not saying that Shadowfall Equinox—and now that you’ve read the words that inspired this mix, I’m sure you see where the name comes from—is definitely an improvement, but I do think it has something to offer, and I’m happy to present it here today.

What this mix has most in common with its namesake is a predominating artist: Jeff Greinke.  Both have three tracks from Greinke,3 although not the same three.  They are all from the same album though, and I even open my mix with the same track that opens “Shadowfall II”: “One September.”  You don’t argue with the perfect opening track just to be different.  The two I didn’t use in this volume will no doubt show up on future volumes—in fact, realistically, this mix will eventually use nearly every track off this excellent album (Wide View).  It’s just too perfect for this mix.4

Other than the Greinke tracks, I stayed away from recycling artists from the Hearts of Space program, at least for this volume.  This meant finding some stray tracks on unlikely albums, and exploring some other artists that I’d discovered via Hearts of Space, such as darkwave icons Black Tape for a Blue Girl5 and Falling You,6 or cello guru David Darling.7

The darkwave bands are a good place to find tracks like these.  Most of them are fond of instrumentals, and even their vocal tracks are often muted enough to fit well here.  So Black Tape for a Blue Girl gives us “The Scavenger Bride” (from the album of the same name, possibly their best) and “I Have No More Answers,” Love Spirals Downwards provides “Sidhe” (from Ardor, one of their best), and Falling You contributes “hope thrown down” off Touch (which is absolutely their best).  These bands also give us our only 3 songs with words (except for the formless vocals we’ll get from Amber Asylum), so “hope thrown down” is also our volume namer.

I’m pretty sure I discovered Falling You via Hearts of Space, and I’m pretty sure that’s how I ended up finding Magnatune.8  The “we are not evil” folks contribute 3 artists to this mix (above and beyond Falling You), including the two that give us our worldmusic vibe.  Shiva in Exile is mostly electro-world, like Transglobal Underground or Thievery Corporation, with a focus on India and slight gothic tendencies.  Most of his9 tracks are more energetic than will fit here, but “Aldebaran” is a more contemplative piece that works well.  On the other hand, Stellamara is mostly world with a Turkish bent and medieval meanderings, but quite a lot of it has an ambient feel that is part of what this mix is all about.  “Persephone” is one of their beautifully dark, mellow pieces, and it serves as an excellent closer here.  We’ll hear more from them on future volumes as well.

Also from Magnatune is Lisa DeBenedictis, generally a purveyor of anti-folk, but “Cello Song” is a darkly pretty piece given its gravity by the titular instrument.  The cello is in fact a fantastic instrument for conveying the mood that this mix embodies, and you’ll hear it over and over again throughout the mix.  Besides this song, and probably both of the Black Tape for a Blue Girl tracks, there is of course Amber Asylum, whose music is often described as “dark ambient,” which basically means classical/ambient jammed sideways into goth.10  I think I found them by accident, from clicking on one of those “similar albums” or “if you liked that, you’ll probably like this” type links.  Not all of their albums are gold, but this one (The Natural Philosophy of Love) is a winner.  With just a touch of dream mixed in, AllMusic’s description of them as a combination of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Julee Cruise, and Lisa Germano is pretty spot-on.

And speaking of a bunch of 4AD superstars, we also have an instrumental track from This Mortal Coil, the supergroup composed of an ever-shifting lineup of 4AD band members.  This track is “Ivy and Neet,” featuring Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins on guitar and bass, Richard Thomas of Dif Juz on saxophone, and what is almost certainly Martin McCarrick, who bowed the wood for several Siouxsie albums, on cello.11  McCarrick isn’t quite my favorite cello player,12 but he’s pretty high up there.

Shadowfall Equinox I
    [Mystery Dwells Deep]

        “One September” by Jeff Greinke, off Wide View
        “Winter” by Bent, off Ibiza by Day [DJ Mix]
        “Clementina” by Xymox, off Twist of Shadows
        “The Scavenger Bride” by Black Tape for a Blue Girl, off The Scavenger Bride
        “Interlude” by Jeff Greinke, off Wide View
        “Cello Song” by Lisa DeBenedictis, off Fruitless
        “Looking Glass Reprise” by Amber Asylum, off The Natural Philosophy of Love
        “hope thrown down” by Falling You, off Touch
        “Aldebaran” by Shiva In Exile, off Ethnic
        “Io - Moon of Jupiter” by Anugama, off The Lightness of Being [Compilation]
        “I Have No More Answers” by Black Tape for a Blue Girl, off Remnants of a Deeper Purity
        “Twin Peaks Theme” by Angelo Badalamenti, off Twin Peaks [Soundtrack]
        “Slow Circles” by Jeff Greinke, off Wide View
        “Ivy and Neet” by This Mortal Coil, off Filigree & Shadow
        “Sidhe” by Love Spirals Downwards, off Ardor
        “Persephone” by Stellamara, off The Seven Valleys
Total:  16 tracks,  75:36

The remaining 4 tracks are a bit of a hodgepodge.  We get a bit of electronica via Bent’s “Winter,” which is ostensibly a downtempo tune, but seems to be trying to break out of that mold and resonate a little darker, at least to me.  A touch of new age comes via “Io – Moon of Jupiter” by Anugama, which purports to be a meditative piece,13 but again goes beyond.  From Angelo Badalamenti’s insanely good soundtrack to Twin Peaks we have “Twin Peaks Theme,” which infuses a bit of shadowfall into dream pop.14  And, finally, from true goth genius Ronny Moorings, we have “Clementina.”  This is from the Xymox period (as opposed to the Clan of Xymox periods), which means it’s from an album that’s a bit poppier than most of their ouevre.  Specifically, it’s off of Twist of Shadows, which I understand some hardcore (Clan of) Xymox fans detest, as they feel it’s a sellout disc.15  However, I’ve always loved it, and find it quite relaxing, with just enough dark undertones to make it interesting.  Being an instrumental, “Clementina” slides perfectly into this mix.

Next time, I’ll explore yet another of the pieces that Depression fragmented into.


1 I’m pretty sure that was either “Africa West” or “Multiculti.”

2 I discussed this way back in the beginning, remember?

3 This was a mistake I made in the original post; actually “Shadowfall II” contains four tracks from Greinke’s Wide View.

4 The only other artist to be repeated in “Shadowfall II” was Kevin Keller, but we won’t see him until volume II (and later).  I did restrain myself a little.

5 “Liquid Desires”

6 “Funeral Songs”

7 “Shadowplay,” although we won’t actually see tracks from Cello Blue until Shadowfall Equinox II.

8 I.e. because I then went looking for places to download Falling You albums.

9 Like Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Falling You, Shiva in Exile is mostly one guy, specifically Stefan Hertrich.

10 We’ll hear from other dark ambient artists, such as Dark Sanctuary, in future volumes.

11 As well as Gini Ball on violin, who provided strings for Siouxsie, Psychic TV, Wolfgang Press, Big Country, Peter Murphy, and Nick Cave, just to name a few.

12 That would probably be Jami Sieber.

13 In fact, it’s from Anugama’s collection The Lightness of Being, which he “designed specifically for meditation and relaxation,” according to AllMusic.

14 And we’ll hear more off this album on future volumes.

15 Whereas I would reserve that appellation for the following album, Phoenix.

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