Rhian Sheehan is a Wellington-based composer. He mainly writes soundtracks for film and TV as well as Planetarium 360 degree Dome shows. He has a new album out in late March – released on Darla Records in the US and LOOP in NZ (see here for a sample). Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – A Winged Victory For The Sullen, A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Texturally rich ambient ethereal neo-classical drone music by American duo Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Wiltzie. This album is profoundly beautiful; a collection of slow moving contemplative ambient guitar washes, piano and string arrangements. A soundtrack for your thoughts and dreams. Although melodically subtle (and often using no more than two chords), there is an underlying complexity to this music. It’s highly restrained and sensitive, yet very powerful. There is much emotion lurking within the melancholic textures and soundscapes. This was the soundtrack to my life in 2012. Lovely music to fall asleep and wake up to.
2 – Nils Frahm, Felt: Possibly after complaints from neighbours, Nils (a young German composer) came up with a clever way to keep the noise down whilst practising piano in his Berlin apartment. He hung a sheet of felt between the strings and hammers within his piano, thus stumbling upon this new and interesting sound colour. I’m in love with this album. It’s in a similar vein to American composer Keith Kenniff’s Goldmund piano project. Felt is a collection of thought-provoking and hypnotic experimental instrumental piano arrangements, with a little glockenspiel thrown in here and there. The sonic detail in these recordings is what got me hooked. One feels as though they’re inside the piano. It’s all extremely intimate, music to ponder away to. There is a naivety to these recordings that works very well. The creaks, crackles and even his own breathing all become part of the grandeur of the compositions. The beauty is in the imperfection. He’s obviously a masterful recording engineer though – these are not your average home recordings.
3 – Max Richter, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Recomposed: This album is a point of contention in my household. Unfortunately it brings out the OCD in my wife just a little, so it’s an album I often listen to in my own time. For anyone familiar with the original classical work (how could you avoid them?) you’d understand that due to the use of fast paced staccato there is a certain frenetic quality that exists in these pieces which raises your heart rate somewhat. However, Max Richter has turned these pieces on their head, somehow squeezing even more splendour out of the original work by rearranging chord progressions and score-sampling certain elements of the original. It works because the music is so familiar to us all, yet somehow Richter brings it into a modern classical context whilst retaining the original emotion.
4 – Hammock, Chasing After Shadows…Living With The Ghosts: I’m a big Hammock fan, have been since I first discovered their 2006 album Raising Your Voice…Trying to Hear An Echo. I love their most recent album too, but the American duo’s 2011 album Chasing After Shadows…seems to be the one I mostly have on high rotate. I believe this is their most cohesive work. A collection of ethereal guitar washes with deep low bass lines and reverb drenched drum grooves (some in very interesting time signatures). This is powerful music if you allow it to draw you in. There is something about the space they achieve within these recordings that subtly nudges the listener into humming one’s own melody along with their dreamy chord progressions. The music is uplifting, yet very haunting at the same time. On a personal note, Hammock’s music has had a profound influence on my own music, and they are probably the reason I gave up making “electronica” and moved into using “real” instruments within an ambient and classical context. I’ve since become long-distant friends with Marc and Andrew, and I consider them mentors in a way. Being such a big fanI was humbled when they recently reworked one of my own compositions Borrowing The Past.
5 – Cinematic Orchestra, In Motion #1: A compilation of their own recent soundtrack work as well as music from cohorts. I’m an admirer of Cinematic Orchestra’s soundtrack work. The 20min soundtrack for a short film “Entr’acte” is stunning. The piece is confirmation of their genius. It ebbs and flows between full orchestral arrangements into their own sublime world of interesting drum grooves and simple piano and acoustic guitar motifs. Highly emotive stuff. The opening track Necrology is also a favorite.