Interview: Bing Satellites

Guest Post By: Brendan

Editor’s Note: I was skeptical about the so-called “ambient” genre, but was very impressed when Brendan played me the instrumental music of Bing Satellites. It’s beautiful, unusual and cinematic.

In my quest for new music in recent weeks, I have been trawling Noisetrade and Bandcamp for free Electronica albums. I waded through a lot of bad material before stumbling upon the ambient sounds of Bing Satellites, but the quest was worth it. There is something about this guy’s music with which I connect deeply.

My first experience with his music was the Mostly Ambient Radio Sessions from October 17th. Like most of the music of Bing Satellites, it’s a flowing soundscape of guitar, synth, nature sounds and much more.

The man behind the name is Brin, who also records under other monikers, most notably The Ambient Visitor, and The Lovely Moon. You can read more about him here.

The wealth of music available is somewhat daunting – I have removed a lot of favorites from my ipod to make room for more than 48 hours of material created by Brin. If, like me, you feel compelled to download a lot of his music, the easiest way to do so is to click on the album covers on this page. I was so excited about immersing myself in his ambient music that I decided to attempt my first Muruch interview!

Q. How did you get started making music?

At school, aged maybe 13, I was encouraged by my music teacher to try various instruments. He wanted a oboe or clarinet player for the orchestra but I really wanted to play AC/DC songs so took up the bass, drums and eventually electric guitar. I got my first electric guitar through my school. It is the one I still use today, 28 years later!

Q. You describe your studio setup on the ‘about’ page, but are there a few instruments/devices you would use more than others?

I tend to go through phases. At the moment, I am using the aforementioned guitar through a load of pedals – mainly chorus, delay and reverb. The main thing though is Reason – a really great piece of software. It is easy to manipulate and create new sounds with Reason. Most synth or piano sounds in my music are from that.

Q. Who/what are your influences (besides Brian Eno)?

Thomas Fehlmann, Ulrich Schnauss and Harold Budd. When I first heard the music of each of these people it was a revelation. They each do something that no one else comes close too – and many have tried! I think though, there is common ground between what they all do – there is beauty and space in their music.

Q. Is this a hobby for you or do you make a living off it? If not, do you envision a path to that point?

I’m not sure hobby covers it. An obsession maybe. I do it because I love it and because I have to – I think my head would explode if I didn’t. It is a totally personal thing but one that, luckily for me, other people enjoy too. The fact there is any money in this still amazes me. Who knows what the future holds but it seems pretty positive at the moment.

Q. What are the challenges and benefits to being an independent music producer?

Well, I’m independent in many ways – I release most of music myself or on my netlabel BFW recordings. It does mean that I do almost everything myself but also that I have no boundaries, either to what sort of music I release or how much I can put out.

Q. Do you like ambient music more than other forms of music, and why? What would you say to encourage an audience unfamiliar with the style to give it a try?

Not at all. I listen to all kinds of things (from, as they say, ABBA to Zappa) but ambient music is what I naturally create. Ambient nowadays is a coverall term for a wide range of music, and not all good. I’m drawn to music that is honest and beautiful. For that, Harold Budd is a good place to start, especially any of his collaborations with Robin Guthrie.

Q. Are there other artists you recommend?

SineRider is a genius. A young guy from the US who makes lots of music of varying genres from ambient to IDM to post rock, but whatever the style, he ends up creating something wonderful. And what’s more you can pay what you like to download much of his music. Please do check it out at Bandcamp.

Q. You release a mind-blowing amount of material – how much time goes into a particular project before it’s released?

Much of my music is improvised and recorded live. My studio set up makes this very easy. I have a bank of sounds I can use from synths, computer, guitar and other instruments. All I need to do is switch on and press record. Some of my music (especially performing as The Lovely Moon or The Ambient Visitor) is generative or system based – the music is created mathematically – so these can happen very quickly or take a lot of time. For example, I have been working on the next The Lovely Moon album for a year and it is still not finished but my album Landscape & Drift was recorded in one week. Once I start something, I tend to keep going until I’m finished. I work very quickly too – quite frenzied considering how calm the music often is.

Q. I love your use of nature sounds – can you disclose the source for the samples you use?

They come from all over the place. Some are recordings I have made, others are from various sources online. I use very long echoes and lots of wide reverb which can make these sounds much richer.

Q. Do you have any thoughts about sampling licensed material?

As I see it, nothing is really original in music. What we play is our take on what we have already heard. I see no problem in sampling a piece of music and making something new out of it, as long as it is actually something new. Be inspired, don’t just copy.

Q. How do collaborations work – is there a web service you use to work on something simultaneously or do you each record pieces and then splice them together?

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some very talented musicians in person or online through my music, so finding people to collaborate with isn’t difficult. Sometimes, one person starts a song and sends it to the other to finish. It can create results that neither party expected. It also means you can work with someone on the other side of the world. There are a few ongoing collaborations I am involved with that should produce some interesting results over the next few months.

Q. Considering the wealth of material you have generously made available for no cost, which album would you like us to feature on this post?

I have two suggestions.

The first is actually my first CD release, Visions & Memories.

The second is Soothing Images 1-15, which is a free/name-your-price
download. It is an album of mainly quite improvised piano songs. Each song is accompanied by a suitable photograph. Some of the music on this album is featured in the new coming of age horror movie Found.

Big Satellites Official Site

Forever from bing satellites on Vimeo.

Tori Amos: Sin Palabras (Night Of Hunters Instrumental)

When I reviewed Tori Amos’ new classical-inspired album, Night Of Hunters, I said: “I hope the powers that be at Deutsche Grammophon can convince Tori to record a purely classical album next time around.” My wish has been granted with the label’s release of an exquisite instrumental version of the album entitled Sin Palabras (Without Words).

Sin Palabras has all of the strengths of Night Of Hunters, yet none of the weaknesses that plagued that album’s vocal trickery and lyrical fantasy. As a result, even songs that I found irksome in their original form – such as “Cactus Practice,” which incorporates Chopin’s “Nocturne Op. 9 No. 1″ – sound absolutely lovely sans vocals.

This gorgeous instrumental version illuminates all of the intricacies and nuances of the arrangements. The brilliance of Tori’s piano playing, as well as that of her accompanying orchestra musicians, is put on full and stunning display.

Following is the track list for Sin Palabras along with the classical works sampled in each song:

1. Shattering Sea (Alkan: Song of the Madwoman on the Sea-Shore, Prelude op. 31 no. 8 )
2. SnowBlind (Granados: Añoranza – from 6 Pieces on Spanish Folksongs)
3. Battle of Trees (Satie: Gnossienne no. 1)
4. Fearlessness (Granados: Orientale from 12 Spanish Dances)
5. Cactus Practice (Chopin: Nocturne op. 9 no. 1)
6. Star Whisperer (Schubert: Andantino from Piano Sonata in A major D 959)
7. Job’s Coffin
8. Nautical Twilight (Mendelssohn: Venetian Boat Song from Songs Without Words op. 30)
9. Your Ghost (Schumann: Theme and Variations in E flat major WoO 24 from Ghost Variations)
10. Edge of the Moon (Bach: Siciliano from Flute Sonata BWV 1031)
11. The Chase (Mussorgsky: The Old Castle from Pictures at an Exhibition)
12. Night of Hunters (Scarlatti: Sonata in F minor, K.466 and the Gregorian Chant “Salva Regina”)
13. Seven Sisters (Bach: Prelude in C minor)
14. Carry (Debussy: The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, from Preludes I)

Whether you loved or hated Night of the Hunters, or experienced mixed feelings as I did, I highly recommend Sin Palabras. It’s one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard. So much so that I added it to my Top 25 Albums of 2011, which already included Night of the Hunters.

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Night of Hunters (Sin Palabras) [Instrumental Without Words] - Tori Amos

Soundtrack: Water for Elephants

I have not seen the new film, Water for Elephants, which is based on Sara Gruen’s novel. However, I have greatly enjoyed listening to the movie’s soundtrack. The original score by composer James Newton Howard is a lovely collection of instrumentals both serene and dramatic. The rest of the album features Depression-era jazz and blues, the centerpiece of which is Bessie Smith’s guttural rendering of “I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl.”

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Soundtrack: Inception

Muruch husband and wife duo Brendan and Vic were among those enamoured with the new Leonard DiCaprio film Inception. Director Christoper Nolan’s trippy intellectual dreamscape successfully combines the sci-fi plots and astounding effects of movies like The Matrix with a noirish mystery and settings seemingly ripped from the work of M.C. Escher. Being the movie soundtrack and Hans Zimmer expert of the house, Brendan took on the review of Zimmer’s score for the Inception soundtrack. You can read his thoughts on the album below…

I’ve enjoyed the music of Hans Zimmer since 1993’s True Romance, one of my earliest soundtrack purchases. On cassette! Remember cassettes? My admiration for that particular score was dampened when I heard the remarkably similar music from an earlier film, Badlands. But Zimmer has done some wonderful work in the past two decades, including Gladiator, The Lion King, The Rock, and The Dark Knight. One of my favorite compliations in recent years has been The Wings of a Film – a concert performance from 2000 featuring Zimmer’s music as performed by the VRO Flemish Radio Orchestra. Highlights from that album include excerpts from The Thin Red Line and Gladiator, the latter featuring Lisa Gerard’s haunting vocals.

On to Zimmer’s latest release, Inception. I listened to it walking through the streets of my town as the sky darkened and the wind grew and thunder crashed. The Inception score was a perfect soundscape – when I heard a snatch of a particular song central to the movie, I felt a strong urge to wake up.

Inception is moody and brooding, somewhat similar to Zimmer’s work on other recent Christopher Nolan collaborations, but intensified by the guitar playing of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

The final track, “Time,” is representative of this score – an emotional triumph that builds and builds until you feel the love and loss of the character it represents, then fades with a bittersweet solo piano.

Inception is a heady mix of electronics, orchestra and guitar, and surely will be a forerunner for best score when Oscar season arrives.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can listen to an interview with Hans Zimmer at WV Public Radio and hear samples from the album at the links below…

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Inception