Pastoral electroacoustic soundscaping of the most evocative and enveloping kind, The Green Kingdom’s (Detroit-based graphic designer and sound artist Mike Cottone) self-titled album inaugurates the SEM label in fine style. Sampled textures and field recordings, melting organ chords, tinkling melodies, and cascades of acoustic and electric guitars establish becalmed ambiance throughout the album’s nine settings. Electronic ‘noise’ is present but not abrasively so; instead, it functions as atmospheric texture, like the rippling static that courses through “Broken Moonbeam” like the crackle of a dying campfire, and the lapping pitter-patter that suggests raindrops in “Cherry Sunrise.” Soft insect noises in “Amniopod” suggest a forest setting while the song’s sparkling melodies glisten like sunlight reflecting off a pond’s surface. The longest piece, the penultimate “Nocturne2,” pushes beyond the ten-minute mark but Cottone deftly sculpts a beautifully modulated flow throughout. The spirited “Cherry Sunrise” sometimes rises to a near-gallop but the album otherwise opts for meditative ambiance. That The Green Kingdom remains captivating throughout its near hour-long duration despite rarely straying from its bucolic style testifies to the material’s superior quality.
Mike Cottone, the author behind The Green Kingdom, hails from Detroit, a city more commonly associated with its techno scene than the electro-acoustic ambient work featured on this self-titled release. Blurring the lines between digital processing and acoustic instrumentation, The Green Kingdom weaves folk elements and fractured synth waves poetically through his music. Everything about this record, from its title through to the eye-catching green artwork is steeped in organic influences.
A sharp focus on melody is retained on several tracks, but most notably on the lulling “Amniopod”. Like an intricate piece of origami, this composition is structured exquisitely; the toy piano chimes, soft rainfall-like sound and crisp pitter-patter scratches throw a warm blanket of sound reassuringly around every inch of your body.
The effervescent “Mei Lei” combines bird song, shimmering drones and samples of leaves crunching underfoot. This simple, emotive piece captures the solace found during daybreak, just as shards of sun light begin the creep through the thick canopies of deciduous trees. The slow motion chimes seem to drip like the early morning precipitation that falls to the ground from the leaves.
The recent Harold Budd / Robin Guthrie collaboration (After The Night Falls & Before The Day Breaks – review link) comes to mind throughout, there is a celestial, almost breathless quality about “The Green Kingdom”. It is the sort of album that only leaves a vague impression initially, but reveals its depths as its layers dissolve and unfold the mystery with every listen.
“La Poussière Et Mémoires” draws in some graying clouds to this release. The abstract guitar progression is blanketed with velvet melodies and barely audible pin-drop crackles that act as comforting percussive elements. The grainy ambiance of “Broken Moonbeams”, on the other hand, gives off a nocturnal aura or, instead, the sort of sounds that are perfect for a rain swept day spent indoors alone. The soft vocal tones are purposefully placed towards the end in such a manner that they only enhance such sentiments of tranquility.
If anything, “The Green Kingdom” possibly overstays its welcome; you can get too much of a good thing, after all. The last two tracks (“Nocturne 2” and “Cherry Sunrise”) although undeniably poignant, clock in at a whopping 20 minutes in total, accounting for almost a third of this album. This isn’t a criticism as such, as stand-alone compositions they are as beautifully performed as the other pieces. But I couldn’t shake the feeling Cottone could shaved some time off “The Green Kingdom” without detracting from its impact.
Petty issues aside, “The Green Kingdom” is a sparkling debut release of bucolic ambient music from the Parisian Sem Label that features gorgeous sounds extracted from toy pianos, processed guitar, glockenspiel and harp-like instruments. It is the sort of record that will take you deep into the heart of the forest, where you can almost touch the flora and smell the aromatic eucalyptus emanating from the evergreen trees.
SMALLFISHThis debut release from Sem is a delicious charmer of an album from Michael Cottone (previously to be found on the Post Piano Remix Project on 12k’s Term offshoot – one of the highlights, in fact). Sounding something like a cross between 12k’s more organic releases and a label like Plop, for example, the sound is delicate, yet robust, beautiful and atmospheric and packed full of lovely textural sounds. Elements of folkiness creep into the gentle guitar plucking, but it remains resolutely an electronic based work throughout and the way it builds on sounds and themes is warm, friendly and very, very listenable indeed. Scratchy background samples and layers of static, click and really interesting samples combine with the more musical aspects to give it a dense, yet still spacious feel. Fans of the aforementioned labels will find a huge amount to enjoy with this album and it comes highly recommended.
Hailing from the unfolding disaster that is Detroit, Michael Cottone ignores the post-industrial malaise of his hometown and indulges in some airy laptop ambience on his debut album. Crossing field recordings with electro-acoustic touchstones and heavily manipulated guitar, Cottoneblahblahblah- there’s any number of ways to describe this album, but all of them sound like hoary old cliches, ubiquitous enough to now be virtually meaningless. But they all apply here: “soundtrack to nonexistent movie,” “movie for your ears,” etc., etc. But where I’m unsuccessful in finding apt words to describe this piece of art, Cottone succeeds in making an eminently listenable album of, for lack of a better genre-mashup, pastoral-glitch, maybe. But that’s not entirely an accurate assessment. Here’s four associations I made when listening to this album for three continuous hours: Imagine BOC signed to Kranky. Tortoise abandoning stringed instruments. Harold Budd with only a guitar and Nobukazu Takemura producing. Fennesz without the puritanical rigidity. There are a thousand more (not literally) of these, and Green Kingdom is both all and none of them. Labeling a piece of art reduces it, makes it more identifiable, and therefore less mysterious. As such, I’ll refrain from making a definitive name for the sounds of Green Kingdom, because that’s not fair to you. I received this with virtually no leading information as to what it would sound like, and it is a pleasant surprise that first time. I wouldn’t want to ruin it.
Michael Cottone is a Detroit-based graphic designer and sound artist, and this is his first long-player as The Green Kingdom. Detroit may be famous for its futuristic techno music, but on this album the focus is on intimate domestic soundscapes, utilising electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, sampler, field recordings etc.
On ‘Amniopod’ a rhythm of sorts emerges from a series of clicks amidst a sea of hiss. Deep bass notes hang in the reverberant space created by plucked guitar notes and warm keyboard tones. Above it all floats a pretty celesta sound. ‘Mei-Li’ opens with birdsong, before a warm drone fades in, and gradually an irrestible IV-IM7 chord movement emerges. Perhaps the highlight of the album is ‘Nocturne 2′, in which sparse piano notes outline an ambiguous melody over low drones and backwards guitar sounds.
Sometimes it seems like the burgeoning genre of solo ‘laptop and guitar’ records is a growth industry, and it can be hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. However it’s impossible to dislike this record, due to Cottone’s winning way with a deftly placed jazz chord, and the sheer feelgood warmth and delicacy of his compositions. This is an auspicious premiere release for new French label SEM.
The Green Kingdom is the work of one Michael Cottone, a Detroit based graphic designer and sound artist. Cottone’s musical interests exist in creating compositions which blur the lines between soundscape and structure while keeping a sharp focus on melody.
The Green Kingdom is an album of warm bass reverberations which drift off into a sonic-netherland whilst an impressively arranged tapestry of buoyant electronic matter and swells of manipulated-acoustic micro-motifs combine to grace the lush soundscape. The Green Kingdom may be classed by many as ambient electronica but this is a lazy categorization. Whilst the aesthetic of ambient electronica is a pivotal theme, there is far too much electronic trickery and electro-acoustic manipulation going on beneath the surface. Instead a tag of ‘melodic minimalist glitch’ would be more befitting. The sound of The Green Kingdom is best described as being like a companion piece to a visual image where intermittent shafts of light manage to shine through to the deep sub-aqua terrain resulting in the occasional disturbance of sea-life, a phenomenon that brings about a spurt of subaquatic rustling in which multi-colored fish dance hypnotically resulting in sea-plants swaying jaggedly and millions of shimmering grains of sand launching into violent explosions. The tracks on the album consist of digitally manipulated acoustic and electronic sources, sampled textures, noise and field recordings. This can be the formula to a very cold and sterile creation of sound but Cottone manages to make these sound-creation methods combine into an album of engrossing dynamics which are vividly arranged and richly produced.
Starting off with ‘Toy Guitar, Hiss, Anxiety, Etc’ the listener is welcomed immediately into Cottone’s sub-aquatic domain. Manipulated and overlapped guitar clusters explode forth out of the plunges of atmospheric bass tones to carve out a soundscape which is aesthetically similar to Marsen Jules. The instrumentation forms the melodic crux of the track, alternating between elongated drones and shimmering melodic flutters which occasionally move into tightly grouped flamenco melodies. ‘Amniopod’ moves into Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto territory with its dark unhinged bass rumblings and serene drone underpinning the free-form keys which are clustered into glistening East Asian motifs. The drawn out and decomposed electro-acoustic melodies of ‘Mei-Li’ exist over a sea of warped drone arrangements resulting in an image of a sunken ship in which (implausibly) a vinyl of a vintage orchestra continues to rotate backwards in a jagged and frayed manner. It’s all so tranquil and misty yet so bustling and intricate which results in a compelling listen that removes you from the reality of the world outside.
Frostbite and subtle gas storms make themselves known on the dark and delicate glitchscapes of ‘La Poussière Et Mémories’ and ‘Broken Moonbeam’ both of which are engulfed in a cold and blustery audio skree. As the album progresses it’s like the hostile waters of the North Atlantic have been crossed and the warmer more hospitable surroundings of the South Atlantic have been reached. This is revealed by moving into more melodious territory on the second half of the album, initially with the acoustic micro motifs of ‘Wind-up Wildlife’ and then the mesmerising angel-dust sprinkles of ‘Miniature Forest’. The latter track is a perfect accompaniment to a nature programme showing a tiny sapling turning into a something far more substantial in a matter of seconds. It showcases a soundscape where melodies spring to life and become more robust, providing the central theme to the track. The rhythmic swells of the sumptuous overlapping acoustics collide with gaseous ejections and micro-scraping polishes to form a contemporary electronic ode to minimalist master Terry Riley. The meandering melodies and constantly evolving atmospherics of ‘Nocturne 2’ can’t help but captivate the listener whilst the rich harmonic drones of ‘Cherry Sunrise’ meet with fragmented micro-glitches and animated yet angularly arranged instrumental motifs to exude a Tortoise meets Labradford type of sound.
The press release rightly notes that “(Cottone’s) soundworlds encourage introspective explorations and provide an escape from our sometimes hectic lives. So if you’re ready to disengage from the world outside into a sub-aquatic dreamland where subtle electronic skree shoots fluidly across otherworldly terrain, drones swell and contract effortlessly and manipulated & glittering electro-acoustic melodies roam free and dance flame-like in uncharted and carefree formations, then this is the album to spin. Happy listening! (KS)
fledging Paris based label who to date have recently released their inaugural outing in the shape of the self titled debut outing from the Green Kingdom of which you can sample four cuts via this here my space site. A gorgeous collage of sparsely minimalist rustic electronics with a delicate folk ambition emblazoned to its core. The Green Kingdom is essentially Michigan based musician Michael Cottone who delights it seems in composing delicate snow bound treats primed in all manner of honey glazed chilled out ambient textures the best of which without doubt is the divinely beguiling ’wind up wildlife’ – a beautifully curated nursery like picture box braided with the most desirable and alluringly playful clockwork dynamic that lovers of early career ISAN and Plone may do well to stop by for a brief spot of enchantment. Elsewhere the label has just signed up both Letna and Alexandre Navarro – the former a Parisian based artist by the name of Sasa Vojvodic who to date has put out three full lengths with a fourth tentatively titled ’Adria’ due shortly for Sem – the latter again another Paris based musician whose site is devoid of sound files (darn) but who will – we are reliably informed – be releasing an album via SEM in March.
Mike Cottone is a Detroit graphic designer and sound artist. His first released was in 2005 with a compilation appearances on ‘Skamcats’ of English electronic dance pioneer Skam label. In the same year he did another track for the ‘Open Remix Project’ compilation release on 12k/Term. In addition in 2006 he released two albums, ‘Lucky Bamboo’, [EKO netlabel] and ‘Meadowview’ [Heldernacht].
The music blends field recordings, glitch and soundscapes. Ambient textures, shimmering tone bells and stasis, gentle guitar chords and as a whole quite harmonic album.
Do you have someone with, you can just seat on a chair, talk (or not) about this pretty girl you just have crossed in the street, someone with whom you can just say that life is boring these days, without any consequence, someone with whom you can just listen to this small clickety-clack coming from a tiny string alternatively rubbing a shutter or the old gutter and then have a conversation on the deep interest of recording field sounds in the post-contemporary european culture for finally just come back to the initial nice girl of the street. Since the last year and the perfect ::lucky bamboo for eko, i now know that a musical creation can (easily) become a sort of immaterial (“broken moonbeam”) vector for friendship. The music of Michael Cottone is very far from the historical sound of motor city, far from any regulation and standard output activities, free and without particular fasteners, if it is not of a deep sincerity, of this sincerity of harmless gestures, these harmless gestures exchanged between friends – You have a friend.