A few weeks ago I signed with one of my favourite new music labels, Bigo & Twigetti; they're releasing Feather Hammer properly for me and I couldn't be any more delighted! I've followed and admired their artists for a long time so to now be part of that group is a dream come true. From the 25th it will be available to buy from iTunes and eMusic and other online retailers, and there's a free download of DFACE available from their bandcamp site, where you can also pre-order the album before Friday.
The switch from selling the record DIY style to doing it properly through the label means that the 'music' link above takes you to their bandcamp site and not mine. I'm in the process of creating some new music related pages for the website dedicated to my film soundtracks and other stuff. Maybe I'll have a spare moment in December to sort that out.
There's been more radio play, this time in Ireland (Steve McCauley for the BBC - for a limited time you can listen again here and here) Outpost Radio and Lion.fm (Penn State University Radio) in the States. I still feel like pinching myself when I see the company I'm keeping in these playlists.
Finally, you have got to check out these amazing illustrations by super talented Bedford artist David Litchfield - I adore them! See you at the gig! x
Earlier today I was delighted to learn, via the magic that is twitter, that my music has been played on Fbi 94.5FM (Sydney, Australia) over the weekend. Chuffed! Firstly, on the New Weird Australia show on 13/10/2011, and then another 3 tracks on the Utility Fog show presented by Peter Hollo on 16/10/2011. Made my day to learn I was given airtime in a playlist sandwiched between Hauschka and Bjork (.... *sigh*).
A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being interviewed by Chris McGovern for The Glass blog, and was asked some interesting and probing questions about my creative practice, how I approached certain specific pieces in the Feather Hammer project. If you're interested in that sort of thing, check it out here. On the same day this interview came out, I was also (bizarrely) featured alongside my best friend Liz in an Observer piece about Morrissey/Smiths fans, an article which has nothing to do with my music but features an embarrassing photo of myself kissing my Smiths lyric tattoo, which is under my arm. So yes, virtually kissing my own armpit. Classy girl.
A few more reviews & mentions have come out in the past few weeks, all of which have been lovely. Here's some of my favourite quotes, with links to the original articles/postings:
- Chris McGovern / Chamber Musician Today
"The album is very much like a classical suite (sometimes sounding as if it could have been collaboratively recorded by Massive Attack and Arvo Part) on her first love, the piano, and its mini-movements read like pages of a diary that go from a good day filled with visions of hope to days less inspired and more stressful as a student" ... "the varied sounds of the piano (straight piano vs. the flatter prepared-piano) give sort of an artistic timeline between a classical and an experimental sensibility, as if to say that the constructed has now been deconstructed."
"Feather Hammer is a quality release by Kardos, exploring a wide range of emotions through her instrument of choice, and complementing it very well with the addition of acoustics, percussion and sampling. But most of all, Kardos makes a wonderful job of bringing displaced thoughts back to life through her music - whether delicate or challenging, she does not shy away, but confronts, thus ensuring her music communicates with the listener on an emotive level. 81%"
- Kat Arney / You Do Too Much (blog)
"A new album of gorgeous manipulated piano tracks – by turns minimalist, ambient and crunchy"
- Acid Ted
"This is ambient coming at it not from the dub and dance sources of The Orb but the more austere, aescetic end of classical chinstrokers John Cage and John Tavener. There’s also something about the scale of this music. Like some of Tavener’s Orthodox chant pieces and especially The Protecting Veil they either need to be heard very small and personal or at an enormous and public scale like the Albert Hall. But there’s less the sense of being small in the face of a Deity, rather small in a pained and personal suffering way."
"This blissful yet daunting at times piece of art will take you on a journey"
"Feather Hammer is truly DIY at its finest - full of warm tones and beautiful piano. It's one of those EPs that makes you want to put your headphones on and stand in the middle of a four way intersection at 3 am, watching the brief solitude of a once busy street, observing the traffic lights change for nobody but you."
- Chip Michael, Interchanging Idioms
"Classical music is so much more than dead white composers. Leah Kardos is living proof of what it not only can be, it moves toward what it may be in the years ahead... The music is a mixture of styles and influences from Debussy to Tavener, Shostakovich to Bryars with pop elements from Bowie, Brian Eno and The Flaming Lips. From this rich tapestry we are given a sonic-scape that transports us into a distant world of colors, shapes and sounds like nothing I've heard before. At times the music is opaque and difficult to see clearly all that's happening, while at other times there is a clear lyric glide to the musical lines that float over the listener with utter beauty."
So it is out there, and it seems that people are enjoying listening to it. As a composer, I cannot imagine a better feeling. A big thank you has to go out to the people who tweeted, responded on facebook or emailed me their beautiful comments and reactions - my heart is full. Now I'm getting prepared to present the version of it at the premiere event on Nov 25th (tickets here!). Expect some divergences, I want to make room for lots of improv. There'll be none of this 'press play' business you see so often with the performance of electronic works! Slackers.
Resonance 104.4fm Clearspot 16/09/2011 - Leah Kardos presents Feather Hammer
If you're on Facebook, you can RSVP to the event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=276449095715751
It's going to be kickarse, I promise!
Here's a write up about the event, stolen from the Chaos Theory website:
Time: Friday 25th November 7.30pm
Venue: The Wilmington Arms, 69 Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 4RL
Chaos Theory are proud to present three fiercely inventive talents premièring their contemporary works during this one-off event. All of the musicians tonight combine various disciplines, technology and defy tradition. In the true spirit of what Chaos Theory wishes to promote, we invite all of you who wish to experience challenging new music and art.
LEAH KARDOS: FEATHER HAMMER
Leah is a multi-talented composer, producer and pianist whose latest work will be showcased tonight. Her breathtaking new album Feather Hammer (released on 19th September) combines tonal and ambient soundscapes which fuse contemporary classical and electronica styles.
The recorded version of Feather Hammer uses the sounds of acoustic pianos, making use of the hammer, strings and wood percussion of the piano as well as playing them conventionally.
Tonight, we will witness a special presentation of the album featuring digital piano, electronics and video art by Matthew Greasley.
A brilliantly innovative quartet who we’ve had the pleasure of hosting at our monthly night Candied Nonsense. Continually looking to promote the music of established and emerging 20th and 21st Century composers, these graduates from the Royal Academy Of Music, Royal College Of Music and Oxford University never shy away from the new and the experimental. Over the past few months they have premièred ten new works.
Featuring Mandhira De Saram and Patrick Dawkins on violin, Valerie Welbanks on cello and Richard Jones on viola, tonight they will present short pieces by contrasting composers including John Cage, Anton Webern and Harry Partch.
Opening the evening will be this gifted soloist, who will be creating extraordinary music using his original music concept.
Gathering field-recordings within one mile of the Wilmington Arms over the course of one hour, Sam will be manipulating the sounds to forge a one-off soundscape purely for this evening, adding no new sounds whatsoever. He will accompany these recordings with his improvised slide guitar.
A unique start to a unique evening.
This is a rare opportunity to see such vast talent together in one evening and we invite you to come and see how limitless music can be.
£8 on the door
If you're interested to hear how it might have been, knock yourself out!
[Feather Hammer] demo 1 Apology (with subway) by leahkardos
Where: in London tune in to 104.4fm, or online via iTunes radio or one of the links on this page: http://resonancefm.com/listen
In this radio show I will be previewing tracks from my new album "Feather Hammer" which will be available to buy from the 19th of September.
I will be talking about what inspires me, my creative processes and sharing the stories behind the pieces. I will be on my own, live on air for an HOUR. Please tune in and make all the stress and anguish I'm going through be worth my while!
I've taken down the demos from my soundcloud account - big thank you to everyone who listened and commented and helped me. The finished album will be available from Monday the 19th of September from my bandcamp page, which you can access instantly by clicking the 'music' link on the site menu above. I'll be back soon to post details about the album launch/premier performance event happening on the 25th of November at The Wilmington in London. Exciting times!
Approaching this piece the primary aim is creating interesting textures and playing with the proximity of those sounds. A secondary aim is to recall the feeling of early piano lessons and repetitive practice routines, pattern based technical exercises, the warmth of harmonies built from 3rds. After recording the various patterns using a variety of mic types and positions, I used Logic's space designer, delay designer, some FabFilters, in addition to scissors, stretch and flex-time to manipulate the material. Each "part" to the arrangement is a unique pattern that repeats, so my starting point was this thick texture of all of the looped up cycles working at the same time. The arrangement you hear in the demo below is the result of "carving" into that cyclic material, editing, erasing and eliminating certain bits to create some sense of form. This way of working reminds me of a method my artist friend Kristian Purcell often describes to me, of applying thick layers of media and then carefully stripping it away to reveal the piece.
Here's where I got the sample from:
Big thanks to PianoforteMaestro for letting me use it.-----
In other news I have my next PhD milestone due around the end of August. Cue overly dramatic flailing about, anguish, gnashing of teeth, etc. This time it is the first few chapters of my exogesis, which mostly means lots of writing about myself. Can't be too hard, right? I'll keep telling myself that and hopefully one day I'll wake up one morning and have a PhD.
Something I'm a little more excited to mention is the "art/music" collaborative project I have started with my friend (and amazing visual artist) Kristian Purcell. For a while I have been preoccupied with exploring the connections between sound and vision, in particular looking at my own language and how I perceive things, the way ideas and inspiration cross over between the two senses. Everyone's perception is different, so I'm not about establishing knowledge for anyone but myself here. That said, there are certainly ideas and vocabulary that cross over easily - line, form, structure, repetition, chance, colour, shape, dissonance, juxtaposition etc etc etc. I've been keeping an art blog for a few months now (http://thisticklesleah.tumblr.com) where I have been posting/reblogging anything that has tickled my fancy and made me think of music, and tagging each posting up with the terms and musical ideas that speak to me in that moment. This process has been surprisingly useful to my creative practice and it led me to ask Kristian if he wanted to participate in a little creative back and forth, responding to each other's art with quick, intuitive working.
We're only a few weeks in, and already the material being generated is really interesting. Maybe when it's done we'll publish it online, and I am hoping that when it is viewed as a larger body of work the threads of inspiration that run throughout can be seen and heard. For now I'm just enjoying the freedom to explore musical thoughts without being tied to a brief/job/commission/context or any "this should be serious you're a PhD student" bullshit ideals.
We mic'd up the strings and the pedal mechanics (underneath, though you can't see that)... we also set up a mic on the keyboard itself to capture the clacking of my currently unkempt fingernails. Matt was very helpful today, not only in being a roadie but also in holding down strange chord shapes for me while I prepared the strings. We had a little jam session on the lowest E string featuring me playing the 2pence coin and Matt's slap bass action-thumb. Nice!
I might be doing some gigs later on this year* to promote the Feather Hammer album, which is where this track comes from (or will come from, once the album is completed). I'm very excited about it all, and will definitely post news about it on this site as soon as I can. For now I just have to concentrate on finishing off the production, and adapting everything for live using Albleton and my lovely new APC40.
*this projection could get blown out by a few months, since film soundtrack work takes priority (i.e., we need to pay our bills, right?) and I just got news of some urgent film work that needs doing in July. Time will tell if I manage to get everything done. Now that I think about it, it's actually a good idea to take every projected date I publicise and add 2 months - I seem to have no concept of the limitations of time, space, distance and real life.
The Picnoleptic Muse by Ed Baxter by NetaudioLondon
Netaudio London 2011 festival broadcast, 15 May 2011
produced and presented by Ed Baxter ( 120’ )
Max Neuhaus - Public Supply
Christoph McGown - Grid Public Lock
Lance Dann - The Flickerman
Daniela de Paulis/CAMRAS - OPTICKS
mEtamina Free Net Radio - Don’t die wandering, the sound of impatient wandering
Monty Adkins - Remnant / Suspended Edges
Sol Rezza - Verdades Minúsculas (Tiny Truths)
Spider & I - Feather Hammer - The Waiting
Theme for capcicans - Bite the capcicans
Andrew Jacques - Fedbakontin
Ed Osborn - Stone North
Preslav Literary School - This Good Lesson Keep
Cheapmachines - Ellipse
Filipe Cruz - New Impulses to Old Elements
StSanders - Metallica Shred
Yan Tan Tethera - Full of Noises
RAF - Cage
RAF - KUA
Piet Stoaling - Pudding
We met (in the virtual sense) on the Steve Reich remix contest in Indaba, and he invited me to take part. It started with a facebook group, initially with people posting videos and pictures of dream-like subject matter. I responded to the stimuli with some improvisations, and from there the music passed through many hands - singers, guitarists, composers, arrangers, sound designers - so many talented people have their fingerprints on this thing. I'm glad I got to be one of them.
The next piece uses/recycles parts of the Feather Hammer sessions, working with infinite loops and sampling/retriggering. The warped piano sound is a beatmapped filter effect I just discovered by accident, which made the whole thing sound about 80% more evil than I originally intended! The strange video just adds to the "eraserhead" vibe.
This video is a demo for a live audio visual project I have developed with Matthew Greasley - something about creating experimental textures and surreal imagery that we can manipulate and improvise through live performance. At the moment we're collecting a new live set - the stuff is mostly being drawn from the Feather Hammer project, but a few older pieces might also get a look-in (like the ill-fated Black Mouth of August project, for example).
This piece, Core, is an unusual one for me as it started life as a poem. I'm a terrible poet so there's no chance of me posting the thing here, I only mention it because it's a strange way for me to work - from words; taking a picture in my mind and abstracting it with imagery and language, then further abstracting it into music and sound. The best bit is passing the music over to Matt Greasley to see what he sees in it. The final beautiful abstraction that gives the whole thing a new context.
I am loving the imagery Matt is coming up with - the perfect soft/heavy subject matter to match the style of the music.
Then I took out the core element, the improvised piano solo, and just left the "around" sounds. It's an interesting result, the empty space left by the missing piano part is almost like a silhouette.
[edit: I've since taken these demos down, since they became The Waiting, both versions appear finished on the Feather Hammer album]
I'm reminded that I've done this kind thing before - back when Helzuki were writing in the studio, many of the arrangements started with piano parts that I had written. As band members added their layers to the arrangement, we all found the song worked better if we took the original part out, leaving all the stuff that had been constructed around it to hold the thing up.
Imma try out this method some more. It suits me, since my improvs sometimes come out sounding a bit basic and obvious. This could be a cool way to use that material in a backwards kinda way.
In other news, the My Lithium & Me project is being noticed and listened by the best people: sweetoblivion blogged about it, Boy George downloaded and listened to it, and it was featured on David Bowie's very own site as a news item. Fair to say I'm absolutely chuffed at the reaction it's getting. In little over a week since releasing it I've had over 5700 plays and nearly 2300 downloads via soundcloud, which is just awesome! Thanks everyone!
Update - here's a video demo by Matthew Greasley to go with the non-piano version of the track:
The first of the three Bowie cover gigs I’ve performed was for Trevor's 49th birthday party. Trev is a lovely man and Bowie fan of legend who I had gotten to know through BowieNet (www.davidbowie.com). He had asked my band to come and play the gig - I was fronting for Helzuki at the time. The band couldn't make it but I decided to offer to play some covers instead. Lugging my red furry piano, I pitched up and played a set of slightly more obscure/unobvious numbers. I met a few quizzical looks, but on the whole it went down pretty well. He invited me back the following year for his 50th birthday party - again with my piano, again with a new set of slightly off-kilter interpretations. Standout surreal moment of that party: singing Under Pressure with a Bowie impersonator.
The third, and last, time I did this was for Phil's 40th birthday party in February 2010. For Phil (another lovely man and Bowie fan of legend whom I had gotten to know via BowieNet), I wanted to do something a little bit different. With the party being held in a venue in SE London, it was impossible to lug my heavy piano across the city on the Tube. I decided to perform with my keytar, doing a set of songs in an electro style. I thought it might be funny and give the fans a bit of a laugh (while solving my
Once the summer hols had started, and I had a bit of spare time, I decided to get Liz to come up to Bedford and help me get the vocals down. I'd chosen six tracks, some new and some from Phil's electro birthday set. We got drunk on Jack Daniel’s and I bellowed out the lyrics while she pressed record in the control room. It was FUNNY. The productions were crude, bashed out quickly in a DIY-bedroom style. We joked about getting gothed up and posing for a cover photo in the woods sitting in a tree, and about how horrified the fans would be when they heard what we had done.
But, as time passed, it started getting serious, with the suggestion of a possible news feature about it on BowieNet. Liz arranged for the artwork to be done by the infamous Rex Ray, whom she is friends with. I started to panic - I enlisted my friend Paul Ross to help me with the productions. I started all the arrangements again; for the first time I had to really think about what I wanted to do with these songs - how could I put a modern spin on this, without taking the piss?
Inspiration came from everywhere - starting with Bowie's own back catalogue, which I scoured for usable samples to embed in my arrangements. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I'm really into this idea of using recordings as resources to construct new things, so I figured why not try it out here? At best, it might suggest new shades of meaning through association and memory; at worst it would be a type of treasure hunt/guessing game for the fans. Other inspiration came from a general desire to make a modern sounding trip-hop record - something that I have wanted to do for ages now; mixing the deep downtempo sounds of 90's-style trip-hop with more modern timbres you might associate with current pop or dubstep.
I've worked hard on this, and I'm proud of the result. I'm honoured and humbled by the volunteered involvement of so many talented and creative people: Kristian Purcell painting my face to look like Screaming Lord Byron and taking the cover photo, Rex Ray volunteering to design the cover and make a fangirl's dream come true, Matt Greasley and Izzy Foster for making those beautiful videos, Paul Ross, who helped me raise the bar on this project and spent many long evenings after work making my voice sound good, my boyfriend Matt for putting up with my absenteeism and helping with the mastering... and not forgetting Liz Tray who was there, drunk and giggling with me in the beginning, who really championed this project and pushed it from being nothing more than a joke to something we can both be proud of.
Here it is: