BTV069c Soporus : Atómové Elektrárne

Atómové Elektrárne (btv069c)
Buy Online | cdep/2xLP

Track listing:
1. Bohunice
2. 3.29.79
3. Surry II
4. Pripyat

Soporus (Latin meaning to lull to sleep) began playing live in autumn 2005 and was founded as an ambient side project of Saxon Shore’s Will Stichter and Matthew Stone. In early 2006, they scored the soundtrack for a documentary short film, “Re Enactment”, where children in war-torn Uganda explain tactics used by militia groups to recruit children for their war purposes. Their friend Andy Bruntel (Rilo Kiley, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mountain Goats) edited the film and enlisted their support. The duo began working on an ep for a 4 band 2xLP split for Burnt Toast Vinyl, resulting in a 4 song cdep with an alternate fifth song to be used for the vinyl split.

Atómové Elektrárne is thematically influenced by Stone’s childhood growing up in Central PA. The events at Three Mile Island on 29 March 1979 are interwoven in family folklore. His father was working in Harrisburg, PA and was sent home with an evacuation seeming likely. His family lived less than 5 miles away at the time. Stone was only a year old at the time, but his interest in the nuclear power and accidents continues. The song titles are all connected to nuclear reactors that have experienced accidents. The title of the album, Atómové Elektrárne, is the Czech company which opened the nuclear powerplants in present day Jaslovské Bohunice, Slovakia. “Bohunice” was the site of a nuclear accident in 1977 which resulted in the closing of one of the reactors at the site. “Surry II” is a reactor in Virginia where workers were scalded to death in both 1972 and again in 1986. The album closes with “Pripyat”, referring to the location in the Ukraine that was home to perhaps the most devestating of all nuclear accidents–Chernobyl.

Soporus’ ambient music draws a parallel to these nuclear themes, tightly harnessing music of powerful energy and concentrating it in a beautiful, subtle package. Stone composed “Pripyat” while looking at a photo of a Ferris wheel in the town post-Chernobyl and the song reflects the bleakness, sadness, and quiet beauty of the empty place. Elements of Soporus’ ambience can be found in the mix of Saxon Shore’s work, but for Atómové Elektrárne it is the focal point.

This is part of a four instrumental band series where each band was commissioned to fill an LP side with new music. Burnt Toast Vinyl will be releasing the four bands together as one double-LP set, but also as individual cdeps. The series includes Foxhole’s Push/Pull, The Magic Lantern’s s/t, Soporus’ Atómové Elektrárne, and Questions in Dialect’s The Ghost Wishes to Speak.

BTV069d Questions in Dialect : The Ghost Wishes to Speak

Questions in Dialect
The Ghost Wishes to Speak (btv069c)
Buy Online | cdep/2xLP

Track listing:
1. On This Hand
2. Thought Procession
3. Blank Staircase
4. Train No Track
5. Gather My Wits
6. From a Cloud

The Ghost Wishes To Speak is a small box of puzzle pieces refusing to be called background music. Questions in Dialect has unleashed a mind-blowing avant-garde instrumental EP influenced by modern composers. The six tracks of Ghost speak loudly (and sometimes softly) in contrast to current musical trends.

Most of the material on The Ghost Wishes To Speak began dancing around in the head of multi-instrumentalist Phillip Blackwell early in 2005. After a tour playing for Seattle’s Discover America in February of 2006, Phillip set out to pull the dying Questions in Dialect back together. In a period of 24 hours QiD had three new songs to develop, but most members were too involved with other things to contribute very much. Phillip finished the recording himself, enlisting Steven Bevilaqua (Colour Revolt) as producer and co-engineer.

On The Ghost Wishes to Speak, Blackwell channels the modern composer music of Philip Glass, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Terry Riley blending it with the choral works and minimalistic approach of Arvo Pärt, filtering the impressive mixture through his subjective post-rock lens. Phillip spent late nights improvising and composing with synthesizers, mellotron, vibes, and various electronics, creating pieces of music that breathe ambient, classical, avant-garde, and minimalism. The other members still contributed: Daniel Guaqueta joined on drums and percussion all tracks but “Gather My Wits”, Matthew Magee performed violin on the track “Blank Staircase”, and Jonathan Blackwell provided the artwork. “Thought Procession” includes some ingenious programming by Steven Bevilaqua, and long-time friend Joey Munn improvised the only guitar on the EP for the song “Train No Track”, which sounds more like a synthesizer from an ambient Brian Eno record. Ghost is a work that combines careful composition with free-form improvisation.

Questions in Dialect began in Early in 2001 as brothers Phillip and Jonathan Blackwell, and friend Matthew Magee began an unconventional approach to writing music. These multi-instrumentalists took the name Questions in Dialect, and began creating experimental music in the unlikely state of Mississippi. They caught the ears of local jazz and world music radio director Daniel Guaqueta, who promptly joined on drums. Eschewing the typical wave-calm-wave pattern of instrumental rock, QiD’s songs erect cascades of affected guitar melodies over dub bass textures and cataclysmic drum fills, and often move into free-form improvisation during live shows. Since taking the role as creative director in 2006, Phillip has evolved the sound by incorporating electronics and new composition methods, even moving into avant-garde territory.

The name Questions In Dialect comes from an over-analyzed revelation of the ending of the 1996 Coen Brother’s film Fargo. This may seem quite strange, but seeing as their musical style is a combination of art rock and film score moods, and in a live setting, the songs are often translated visually through projected images, the name then becomes rather fitting. The purpose behind Questions in Dialect is to create cohesive music, visual art, and film that encompass the feelings and emotions of the human experience, and to unite artists of various backgrounds.

This is part of a four instrumental band series where each band was commissioned to fill an LP side with new music. Burnt Toast Vinyl will be releasing the four bands together as one double-LP set, but also as individual cdeps. The series includes Foxhole’s Push/Pull, The Magic Lantern’s s/t, Soporus’ Atómové Elektrárne, and Questions in Dialect’s The Ghost Wishes to Speak.

BTV085 Soporus : 24,110 cd

24,110 (btv085)
Buy Online | cd
Track listing:
1. Chalk River
2. Good Luck In Your Road
3. 3.28.79 Part II
4. Project Salt Vault
5. Lelechenky
6. Tokaimura
7. Bragg
8. Peabody
9. Fukushima
10. 3.28.79 Part III
11. Chalk River Part II
As children of the Cold War era, Soporus are heavily influenced by a lifelong fascination with the quiet power of nuclear energy – the seemingly miraculous ability to calmly harness intense reactions coupled with the lingering fear of potential disaster. Soporus continue with the nuclear power plant themes established on their debut ep, Atómové Elektrárne, with their full-length 24,110.

Soporus is a Philadelphia-based ambient drone ensemble which features guitarist and keyboardist Matthew Stone and bassist William Stichter from well-known instrumental act Saxon Shore along with guitarist Stephen Hoffman. Additional guitar tracks were provided on the album by James Vella (Yndi Halda, a lily) and John Donohue. The live performance also features films and videos edited on the fly by additional member Michael Stichter.

24,110 is the half-life in years of the Plutonium-239 isotope. In nuclear fission reactions that take place in a nuclear power plant, plutonium isotopes are a waste product with Plutonium-239 being the largest component. Plutonium-239 is also the main radioactive material in nuclear weaponry. It is that contrast between usefulness and deadliness that frames Soporus’ layered shimmering ambient guitar washes, droning bass, and lush keyboards that meander between quiet, soaring beauty and droning noise. Like the peacefulness of a sleek cooling tower in the distance, slowly billowing out beautiful soft clouds of white steam while the reactor below contains the ingredients that power our society but also have the potential to annihilate us all.

The opening track “Chalk River” refers to a site in Canada which manufactures a large percentage of the world’s supply of medical isotopes. Though chartered to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Chalk River also supplied substantial amounts of Plutonium-239 to the United States for weapons manufacture during the Cold War.

“Good Luck In Your Road” is the English translation of a sign outside of Pripyat, the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and makes use of Geiger counter sample noise. “Lelechenky” is the name given to an art/dance collective formed by children who survived the Chernobyl disaster. They perform traditional Ukranian dances and sing Ukranian folk songs to raise money for children affected by Chernobyl.

“Tokaimura” is a small Japanese fuel preparation facility. Workers were not properly trained to make a batch of experimental fuel and brought too much enriched uranium together which caused an uncontrolled chain reaction. Over a hundred workers received large doses of radiation and 2 workers died from radiation exposure. “Peabody” is a reference to Robert Peabody who died after an accident at a nuclear power plant fuel facility in Rhode Island in 1964. He is the only person ever killed in an American nuclear accident and the circumstances were similar to the Tokaimura accident. His liquid uranium reached a critical mass and emitted lethal doses of radiation.

“Project Salt Vault” was an experiment to see if spent nuclear fuel rods could be successfully contained deep in a Kansas salt mine. Salt does naturally absorb radiation and the experiment was successful, though the site was abandoned due to concerns that the fuel rods could potentially interact with underground water and oil reservoirs.

“3.28.79 Part II” and “3.28.79 Part III” borrow audio interviews from a repository of almost 300 audio tapes of interviews conducted by Dr. Lonna Malmsheimer and her Dickinson College colleagues soon after the nearby Three Mile nuclear accident. These audio tapes and supporting materials have been made available on the internet to understand the facts of the incident and the varying degrees of public reaction. Matthew Stone grew up in nearby Lebanon, PA and his father recalled being sent home from his work in Harrisburg, PA during the TMI incident. This helped inspire Stone’s interest in nuclear power plant accidents which heavily influence Soporus’ material.

24,110 is dedicated to the spirit of the Lelechenky and to Wladimir Schewtschenko who filmed footage of the Chernobyl accident and died from radiation poisoning (his only protection was a surgical mask and his camera was buried with the rest of Chernobyl’s radioactive debris). The mysterious majesty of 24,110 is a requiem of the aftermath of life and nuclear power

“[Burnt Toast Vinyl’s] double-LP set of four new bands–including brilliant ambient duo Soporus–is one of the most memorable releases this year.” — Martin de Leon, XLR8R

“The artists’ ambient and post-rock material is superb…A similar desolation and grandeur haunts the magisterial “3.29.79” and [Soporus’] other pieces are equally beautiful ambient settings.” — Textura