Yellow6 : Painted Sky (Resonant)
If you know anything about Yellow6 (aka Jon Attwood), you know that he releases music at an insanely prolific rate. In the past seven years, he's put out roughly an album a year, plus tracks on compilations, EPs, and singles. He also puts out a huge amount of work on CDR, including yearly Merry Xmas discs that have sometimes contained well over an hour of new music. To date, my favorite music of his is still the long tracks he did for the Catherine Whiskey EP on the Jonathon Whiskey label, but his 3CD set The Beautiful Season Has Past also compiled a huge amount of great tracks with very little filler.
In terms of his recent discography, his last album Melt Inside felt like a massive letdown to me. It was the first time that he'd really tried to incorporate vocals (from singer Ally Todd) into his tracks, and the result sounded like a big stumble, either because of Todd's over-dramatic singing style and sometimes cringe-worthy lyrics, or simply because it was such a break from his usual sound. If his last album was a big step into a different direction, then Painted Sky finds him completely back into his element, with guitar-based tracks that largely drift in the ether.
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The album opens with "I Know I Shouldn't (But I Do)" and "I Loved You More Before I Knew You Loved Me," and the two tracks are essentially slight variations on the same sun-soaked theme. With desert-dry guitars, they both sound like plays on spaghetti western soundtracks, with the former mixing in some soft synth pads and distorted electric guitar while the latter is even more haunting and sparse with overlapping wails of guitar drone underneath the undulating melodies.
On "Common," the album changes up as Attwood introduces some programmed beats, and the song progresses pretty nicely over the course of almost eight minutes, with a couple slight rises and falls that build just enough tension to keep things interesting. When he moves away from the guitar as a focal instrument, the results aren't quite as pleasing. The piano-driven "Nye 2" takes some simple melodies and buries them in effects, seemingly trying to tug something more interesting out of them, while the spaced-out "Realisation" drifts on hazy synths and some sparse guitar notes for almost six minutes without changing up much.
The release doesn't shake out of that more drifting vastness until the latter half of "Eighteen Days," where some distant drums move things forward nicely, and then the closing two songs of the release bring mixed programmed beats back for more of a backbone. With ten songs running an hour in length, Painted Sky contains both a hand-full of great tracks as well as several that simply don't add much to the album. That said, Painted Sky is a solid return to form that's as solid as anything he's done since Lake:Desert. Ambient guitar-heads rejoice.
Yellow6 : The Beautiful Season Has Past (RROOPP)
It’s a little difficult to know where to start when discussing a compilation of the likes of The Beautiful Season Has Past. In the past eight years or so, musician Jon Attwood has been one of the most prolific artists around, releasing five full-lengths, twelve mini-albums or EPs, eight singles, five live albums, and a slew of remixes, singles, and compilation tracks. The Beautiful Season Has Past largely collects a huge body of his out-of-print and rare work, with almost all of the forty tracks on this set being very, very difficult to find elsewhere.
The three CDs and forty tracks span well over three and a half hours in length, and cover just about every corner of the ambient, dream, and post rock spectrum. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Attwoods last album Melt Inside (where he teamed up with a vocalist for the first time, with rather bland results), this sprawling CD set contains some of his best work to date, and enough heady music to fill an entire evening of stargazing, couch-surfing, or walking foggy streets. One of the many highlights of the set are the first six tracks of the second disc, which contain the long out-of-print Icanhearthemusicallaroundme mini-album that has since been deleted. With only some minimal drum machine programming and loads of overlapping processed guitar, he creates over a half-hour of gauzy wonderland, with tracks like the ringing “Cale" and deep and dark “Light Dome II" (which sounds like it could have been plucked off an early-90s 4AD album) leading the way.
On the slightly more aggressive side of things, “The Room" is a lo-fi burst of shimmering guitar haze that was originally a split release with 2 By Bukowski, and it shows that Attwood can crank up the volume if need be and still keep things interesting. “Perception Received" carves out unique ground between his louder side and more delicate guitar work, blasting a white-hot arc of noise across a fragile plucked melody that brings out the best in both elements.
The set includes detailed liner notes that give a background and cover art to each track, which is rather interesting, especially considering one previously-unreleased track, the great “La Cave" had even been forgotten about by Attwood until it was brought to his attention by the compiler of the compilation. Because the compilation covers all the years that Attwood has been releasing music, the album is not only a must-have for fans of Yellow6, but is also just as good of a place as any (especially given the bargain price of the set) to dive into his musical world. Not only a testimony to his large and consistent output, the release is also a great document of a truly independent artist at work outside the sphere of large or even medium label support. This is really lovely stuff.
Yellow6 : The Beautiful Season Has Past (RROOPP, 3CD)
RROOPP is a new London based independent label specialising in releasing multi-CD artist compilations of singles tracks, out-of-print and unreleased material. Their first release is a collection of tracks from Leicestershire’s Jon Attwood recording under his usual moniker of Yellow 6. A one-time rock guitarist, Attwood is one of the most prolific and respected artists in the ambient post-rock genre. The Beautiful Season Has Past marks Attwood’s 50th release across more than 20 international labels since he began recording in 1996. The material on this compilation totals 40 tracks; 24 are deleted, out of print or otherwise unavailable, 3 have never been released on CD and 10 more are previously unreleased. The CDs themselves are lavishly packaged with appropriate artwork marking the end of autumn and the onset of winter. Each CD comes with its own carefully compiled booklet detailing the origin and background for each track on the CD, adding some great insight into the working methods, back catalogue and output of Attwood as Yellow 6.
As always with Attwood, his music is almost all instrumental and built around various forms of processed guitar sounds with beats and electronic manipulation. One of Attwood’s skills lies in the creation of atmosphere, whether it is upbeat and energetic, downbeat and melancholy or quietly introspective. Also showcased to some degree is his creative process where tracks appear in numbered sequences representing iterations of ideas and experiments conducted during the development of a track, each variant often possessing a completely different mood, feeling or emphasis to its counterparts. Not entirely post-rock and not entirely electronic either, Attwood utilises electronic equipment as backing, manipulates guitar sounds to form drones and adds his own guitar playing to the mix to create soundscapes based around melody, rhythm or texture, sometimes combining more elements as he sees fit. This indicates that Attwood is not scared of pursuing an idea or new approach to his music by working in new and different ways to see what will be produced by pushing the boundaries of what he does. Some of the alternate versions of tracks from his recording sessions never see the light of day or sometimes show up on the self-released Merry6mas audio Christmas cards he produces in limited quantities every year.
The first disc in this impressive collection gathers together an assortment of single, compilation and a couple of unreleased tracks from a range of labels and music publications. The opening track on this disc, “Series1", is part 1 of a 2-part series with Portal that saw each submit an original track and then reinterpret each other’s work using only a chord chart for guidance. The result is a soaring drum enhanced track with an upbeat mood. This is followed by “Hold Up" and “Series2" from a Bearos single which return to the more ambient, soundtrack quality that Attwood is known for with “Series2" possessing a bright retro indie guitar theme than it’s companion “Series1" earlier on the disc. A superb unrushed mood of gentle ambience permeates “Summersend" from a Rocket Racer 7" boxset and continues through into “Leaving Time". Things start to take a more sinister turn with “Unknowing A" and “Unknowing B", both of which possess a heavier and denser quality by the time which is exemplified further with “Onecertain #4." The denser sound is joined by layers of echoing guitar and the return of the driving indie sound mentioned earlier on “The Room" before “Improvisation #1" provides another beautifully melodic interlude. “One", “Rain (Again)" and “Depth" sit somewhere in the middle ground between the gentle melodic qualities of “Summersend" and the heavy density of “Onecertain #4". Closing the first of the 3 discs is the lengthy “Normalize" an excellent track that skilfully combines both the light and heavier aspects of Attwood’s music already experienced into an opus that opens with gentle radiant tones and builds layers of droning texture over a steady rhythmic beat, taking the music and listener on a journey as it progresses.
The second disc in the collection draws tracks from just 2 sources; a mini-LP called icanhearthemusicallaroundme which was the fourth release in the Atom Series on Atomic Recordings back in May 1999 and an unreleased album for Enraptured Records that was eventually superseded by Attwood’s Overtone album. Five tracks from the Enraptured album are featured in the second half of the CD and they are joined by a couple more featured elsewhere in this collection that made it on to other releases. The 6 tracks from icanhearthemusicallaroundme are split between the gentle ambient side of Attwood’s music and the darker, more rhythmic side. Half of the tracks (“N.Y.E.", “Even" and “Icanhear" calmly drift along with gentle guitar melodies and a soft emotive quality while the other half possess a certain sense of tension or anxiety (“Cale", “Self Distract" and “Light Dome II". The one common thread between all the tracks is the soundtrack-ish quality they all possess. The Enraptured tracks are similar in content although the gentler tracks seem more tranquil and the noisier segments tend to be more aggressive with 1 or 2 tracks bridging the gap between the 2 extremes. “Color", the first of the Enraptured tracks is entirely louder than anything else on this disc and features wailing guitar, deep throbbing bassy rhythms and swathes of droning guitar texture. In complete contrast, and more in line with “Even" earlier on the disc, “Delivery" and “Taught" are tranquil and completely relaxed. Sitting somewhere in the middle ground is “Part 1;" a mainly ambient track with urgent bursts of uneasy tension which only increase and become more frequent as the disc progresses through “Sodium." Finishing off the sextuplet of tracks is “Red Velvet Box" which combines the bassy tones of “Color" with the guitar melodies and drifting texture of “N.Y.E..". Interestingly, the Enraptured tracks on this particular disc show an interesting progression in style from fragile ambience through to tense dark urgency but, although this is now somewhat inconsequential, they are sequenced in such a way that this is not emphasised.
The third disc in the trio collects mostly vinyl single and compilation tracks together along with a couple of bonus unreleased tracks. “Final Piece A" and “Final Piece B" that open this disc are both compilation tracks with a laidback ambient style and sombre soundtrack atmosphere. “Naming Stars" is slightly more upbeat but maintains a similar air of ambience, as does the unreleased “Object #1" that eventually winds down with an adrenaline rush of rock ‘n' roll style energy. Also included on this disc are the tracks from Attwood’s debut 7" single, “Perception Received" and “Milestone" both of which are rich in layered waves of guitar to form a droning, swirling, rhythmic sense of urgency with Attwood’s trademark ambient quality. The single track “Machine" and the unreleased “La Cave" pick up where “Final Piece B" left off; dark soundtrack-like atmospheres, the latter being especially dark with the guitar creating an ominous church bell type toll. The dark sombre mood continues through “Amber", a track taken from Attwood’s annual Merry6mas CDR from 2001. Of the remaining tracks, "The First) Of Winter", “Grey #5" and “Expressway427" are in keeping with the trademark Yellow 6 sound, ambient with Attwood’s own brand of calm, drifting texture and atmospheric guitar accompaniment. The end result is a fluid aural soundscape with a sombre but serene mood.
The Beautiful Season Has Past acts as worthy introduction to those who are new to Attwood’s music as Yellow 6 but also fills gaps in the collection of those familiar with his work as it includes the several unreleased bonus tracks. The whole set is packaged wonderfully and the sleeve notes are comprehensive and informative. If you have ever wondered what Yellow 6 sounds like or just had a passing interest in his work, The Beautiful Season Has Past is an excellent starting point. Even if you are well-versed in Attwood’s output and have been seeking out his more obscure releases for years, this compilation still has plenty to offer you. It is also very competitively priced so you can’t go wrong.
Yellow6 : When The Leaves Fall Like Snow
The latest release from the extraordinarily prolific Jon Attwood is a double CD effort, which means another two and a half hours of melancholic guitar soundscapes. ‘When The Leaves Fall Like Snow' uses the autumn and winter of a time spent in Sweden as its inspiration. No surprise then that this is a collection of minimal, dark and often beautiful music that is tough to listen to in one sitting but is another fine addition to the Yellow6 catalogue.
The CDs each have their own titles: ‘Fall' and ‘Further' The former contains fewer tracks but is the longer of the two CDs, largely thanks to its slower, more reflective take on the autumnal season. My first impressions of track one ‘Still Water' were unavoidably linked to Labradford thanks to its mood, languid pace and use of instrumentation. ‘Street' is undoubtedly Yellow6 though; it’s reverb-heavy guitar lines resonate with a haunting chill that will be familiar to all followers of Attwood’s previous work. The pace only picks up as the title track finds space for some skittering beats amongst the deep, dark wells of Attwood’s elongated chords. ‘Fall' then settles down into the quietness of ‘Street Writing' as two guitar melodies run in parallel, one twinkling and pretty, the other heavy and foreboding.
Disc two ‘Further' is louder, more confident offering. Yet despite the harsh sounds on opening track ‘All Space' ‘Further' is arguably the more addictive listen. ‘You Can’t Be Everywhere He Said' ‘Last Saturday' and ‘Norwest Passage' contain the kind of warmth missing from ‘Fall' whilst ‘Everything Changes' features cascading walls of enveloping darkness. At these times the shorter, melodic pieces tend to be more ultimately satisfying. If I were to be critical of ‘When The Leaves Fall Like Snow' it is that the best tracks (the first half of ‘Fall' and key moments on ‘Further' could have been edited to a single CD but Jon Attwood has always made music for people with time on their hands. Also, even on the lesser moments, the music has a rare depth and intelligence which Attwood’s contemporaries struggle to match even on their best days
Yellow6 : Merry6mas2009
It’s Christmas time and what better way to celebrate it than with the latest compendium from instrumental wizard Jon Attwood and his Yellow6 project? As with previous seasonal offerings from the Yellow6 stable, the Christmas reference is restricted to album title alone although the music within is undoubtedly on the wintry side. This time round, the majority of the tracks were intended for a film by Swedish director Niclaz Erlingmark.
With a foothold in several genres (post-rock, shoegaze, ambient) but not limited by any particular boundaries, Attwood has been a symbol of consistency since he released the first Yellow6 7 in 1998. 732#2 and ‘Light#1 in particular are models of familiar gentle shape-shifting misery, designed to edify and haunt in equal measure. The chilling 732#3 builds up layer upon layer of drama and then stops dead just as you think some awful horror is about to be unleashed whilst ‘Stolen' merges drone with some grimy glum rock guitar segments. Still, it’s probably no coincidence that the track with the most warmth (Light#2) is the one that sounds most like another act; in this case Labradford.
For once, Attwood has limited his recordings to under an hour. A good idea too since a few of his releases have seemed overlong with similar-sounding tracks. So here we have a record which largely maintains its interest and momentum from beginning to end. Merry6mas indeed.
Sunday Experience / Losing Today
Yellow6 : merry6mas 2009 (editions6)
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the sounds of Yellow 6 filtering around our head space, since 1998 or was 1999 these annual melodic Christmas cards have ventured through our letterbox and straight onto the hi-fi and in turn have become as obligatory as the festive roasted ham, tinsel and Morecambe and wise re-runs around our gaff. Initially cobbled together by way of a thanks to various people who’ve somehow helped, harassed and hindered him in some small way throughout the previous 12 months in recent years limited runs have been made available to the greater public at large. This particular volume we believe comes as a pressing of 150. Markedly different from previous issues in three respects - firstly a new label - editions6 which I’m assuming is Mr Atwood’s own imprint, secondly the faux Crass sleeve - a nod to Jon’s teeth cutting musical past as a member of Hagar the Womb and thirdly the actual content which on this occasion features music specially written and recorded (though ultimately not used) for a forthcoming short film by Norwegian director Niclaz Erlingmark entitled 732 (which should see the light of day sometime early next year). Nine tracks feature within, a treasure trove of lights lowered mood music that includes a re-draft of an old Y6 nugget ‘telescope peak' which first appeared on his ‘music for pleasure' ?set from 2001. A collection both thoughtful and tempered with a degree of melancholia, Atwood has proved time and time again his prowess at carving out the cavernous and the Cathedral-esque, these hurtful honeys are presented as measured and painstakingly intricate sonic sculptures, gracefully cinematic and eloquently toned each wallows and woos in equal measure shedding elements of the tender and the tearful, its restrained and reverent, perpetually poised between the monumental and the elegiac. These drifting dream coats glide to plot similar afterglow trajectories as godspeed and Gnac, looping corteges carve a serene melodic navigation that‘s subtle in its sensuality and captivating in their caress - all the time drawing the listener subdued into their unfurling solace - from the parched beauty of 732 #2 with its head bowed resigned and introspective bruising to the trembling twinkle of 732 #3 with its Fahey like pared down resonance as though relocated to the arid sunburnt landscapes of a Leone calm before the storm finale. To his palette he utilises the hollowing timbres, the pauses, the momentary lulls of silence, the pensive tension traits and the reverb opines to full effect with all playing their part to colouring Atwood’s aural portrait - none more does this touch such than on ’light #1' whereupon from its sparsely woven initial greeting something shy emerges to thaw and blossom momentarily before timidly retiring into the shadows. All said it’s the parting ’dead voice' that sealed the deal for us edging as it does ever so delicately in to terrains more commonly countered by Roy Montgomery and the late 80’s NZ noise / ethereal set.
Yellow6 : When The Leaves Fall Like Snow
Following a brief stint on the now semi-defunct Resonant label for 2007’s Painted Sky, Jon Attwood’s Yellow6 project returns to familiar territory in the shape of Make Mine Music (an imprint he co-founded in 2002) for the mammoth two disc set “When The Leaves Fall Like Snow" Written during a six-week stint in Stockholm during the Swedish winter, Attwood collects sixteen separate pieces together incorporating a variety of guitar textures, occasionally using an e-bow and lap steel. Computer enhancements are kept to a bare minimum, with only and handful of tracks featuring percussive elements that help to add variety to the overall flow of the record. Continuing the stripped-down feel of his previous effort, Attwood steers clear of synthesizers, every note, tone and melody is created by guitar.
As far as pensive six-string composition goes Attwood, with over 60 releases behind him, has got it down to a fine art, employing just the right amount of reverb and the right amount of looping delay to his rich, full-bodied arrangements. Opting to develop each piece in a slow, almost painstaking manner, much of the music featured here contains a similar vibe to that of the recent Budd/Guthrie collaboration, with tracks like “Modern" paralleling the celestial, breathless beauty of “After the Night Falls / Before the Day Break".
That’s not to say that a Yellow6 release is completely ambient, not the bland discount supermarket variety anyway. Although the likes of Stars of the Lid and Labradford are an undeniable influence, the ambient tag has never really suited Attwood’s style. Neither has electronic nor post-rock. It would appear he ploughs a field all to his own, drawing inspiration from all of these genres to construct a sound that is immediately his own. In an age where the need to tag music is essential, perhaps Isolationism depicts Yellow6’s music perfectly. “Still Water" a twelve minute opener doused in a forlorn melancholia, conveys a strong sense of solitude within its elongated structure and hypnotic textures.
The Labradford comparisons are particularly apparent in Attwood’s sense of sound and tension. A number of tracks, from the orchestral-like “Mellan" to the gorgeous “Norwest Passage" match the form of that particular illustrious trio. The latter in particular employs a simple chord change that shifts the emotional focus of the composition into optimistic climes, like sunlight piercing bleak, grey clouds. It is trick he performs to near perfection on several occasions. Take “Katarinhissen" for example, one of the many epics featured here. The track ambles along rather peacefully and in a somnifacient fashion, utilizing a slowly repeated guitar arrangement and soft sound embellishments derived from the instrument’s pick-ups. While masking the listener in a comforting blanket of sound for several minutes, a deft chord change soon directs us towards the heavens, with the guitar emulating a cathedral-like reverence.
As a former punk musician, turned guitar conceptualist, Attwood’s music is probably as far away as you could possibly get from his anarchistic roots. Yet scratch beneath the surface and you will find these pieces contain a similar passion, spirit and emotional aesthetic, it’s just delivered in a less vigorous manner. While his sound can be nocturnal, desolate, unforgiving even, it can also evoke images of poignancy. Like the cool “Street Writing" where the guitar textures summon images of ice slowly melting into little pools of water or the hazy “All Space" which brings to mind an early Winter horizon, where the sun gradually begins its ascent.
While “When The Leaves..." doesn’t depart drastically stylistically from previous efforts, the sonorous instrumental sounds constructed here take on a composed quality, cinematic in scope and choc full of yearning, melancholic movements. Last year, Make Mine Music released their finest album to date in Epic45’s “May Your Heart Be Your Map" Make no mistake; Yellow6’s latest effort is cut from the same cloth.
Yellow6 : When The Leaves Fall Like Snow
"When The Leaves Fall Like Snow" is the latest opus from uber-prolific guitarist Jon Attwood under his Yellow6 moniker. The album continues his impressive run of atmospheric instrumental ambient/post-rock.
This album is divided into two discs: "Fall" and "Further". "Fall" features 6 tracks that are all 10 minutes or longer, and even though they can all be described as "minimal", there's still a bit of variety to them. Opener "Still Water" begins with a cloud of feedback surrounding its slow, steady rhythm (or rather, suggestion of rhythm, as nothing resembling bass or percussion appears), but midway through the piece, most of this feedback is removed, and even some of the notes are omitted, leaving only the barest skeletal suggestion of rhythm. Comparatively, most of the other pieces on the disc seem to float in mid-air, although a few incidental touches of digital sounds occur, such as the drum machine pitter-patter during "Leaves Fall Like Snow" which basically provides an effect matching the piece's title.
The album's second disc is a tiny bit more concise, featuring 10 songs averaging 7 minutes each, with only the slightest hint of more structure to them. Tracks such as "You Can't Be Everywhere He Said" gradually build, and "Magasin2" has a soft drumbeat. Overall, the disc still maintains a droney, spacey feel.
Fans of artists like Windy & Carl, Stars Of The Lid and Labradford are probably very familiar with this type of sound; however, if you're in love with droney atmospheric guitars and haven't given Yellow6 a chance yet, this is a great place to start. 8/10 -- Paul Simpson (9 July, 2008)
Yellow 6 has a new album out on the rather useful Distant Noise label. These nice looking and thankfully nice sounding things are limited to 100 copies and always sell out. We don't have too many of these so I wouldn't dawdle. The 6meister has always been a popular chappie here at the towers since he started back in '98 or whenever it was. To be honest his sound hasn't changed much over the years and when he started it was pretty floaty drifty gear and here we are 10 years on and it's still pretty floaty gear. What he has done is refine his sound, and get a lot better. This new album (STHLM) was written at the same time as the ' When The Leaves Fall Like Snow' 2CD set on Resonant. It's a similar record though it's much more minimal and sparse.... for the first time I listened to a Yellow 6 record and thought it was post rock without the rock. It's really very beautiful and atmospheric sounding. Well lush!!