Rob Simonsen Harnesses Nature's Beauty in 'Coeur'

American born Rob SImonsen, who has contributed his music towards some prestigious films such as ‘The Life of Pi’ and ‘(500) Days of Summer’, joins the Sony Masterworks label with a piece he has written and directed - “Coeur”.

The Los Angeles based musician has been in touch with music ever since childhood, his home was musically oriented and so he began acquiring the piano by ear at a young age and eventually became a ‘bedroom producer’, experimenting on his Macintosh with synthesis and MIDI programs. Since then he has studied Jazz piano in Universities across The United States, played in a live Drum and Bass band as well as produced various kinds of musical pieces and graphic art. Rob developed a keen sense towards soundtracks and scoring which has led to him being a well-known name in the film industry, and today his scores can be found in various projects and commercials.

When you listen to Coeur, a clear objective of Rob’s art presents itself through polarizing emotions created by rhythm and note combination - you can sense his intention to ‘harness beauty in the natural world’, representing not only one aspect to the world, but many in correlation to one another. This sense is highlighted throughout Coeur with various elements working independently to create a cohesive story, with stretched pads, gliding pitch, soft percussion and a rhythmical piano progression, Rob utilizes his well established experience. Coeur is a story of its own, with sudden changes in rhythm, melody and mood, it offers to harness the versatility of our world into a work of art.

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Robot Koch delivers an elevated piece of emotive electronica in 'Movement I'

Robot Koch is a Berlin born, Los Angeles based artist/composer who has cultivated a dream list of career achievements that would humble most successful artists these days. I could easily write pages about the gigs, collabs, labels, and awards but instead will leave this upto the inquisitive reader. I will however reference a quote from the late John Peel who described his music as “Strange and wonderful pop music from the future” because it’s a good segue into my impressions of his music. 

‘Movement I’ is simply a highly emotive piece of electronica that grabs you from the first note and wraps it's arms around you in the most intense embrace and doesn’t let go until it’s last phrase. The opening three repeating notes almost have the same reverence as a John Williams or Carpenter theme. There is something profound and transcendent about the repeating notes and their effect on our senses. While it would be easy to reference the impact of this kind of notation from such iconic, classic 70’s horror sound tracks it wouldn’t be an accurate comparison because these theme tunes are minimalistic and draw on a sparse sensibility to create tension and dread. ‘Movement I’ does quite the opposite, it creates warmth, melancholy and hope. Offset from the somber melody and opening urgency are lush layers of reversed vocals, soaring synth lines and flourishes of orchestral rapture that whisk you into a frenzy until it’s abrupt end. What you are left with is a piece of electronica that has the emotional range of a film score while being rooted in genre production styles that gives a piece of music like ‘Movement I’ that kind of awe that warrants all of the above dream list achievements. 

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Sublime simplicity from Berlin Composer Jonas Hain

WIth the almost unlimited sonic possibilities at the fingertips of today’s producers it’s refreshing to hear a composer go back to the basics of strictly expressive instrumentation and emotive musicality. And this is exactly what 27 year old Berlin based composer and pianist does with his recent track MMXV.

Originally written for a director friend’s film project with an imminent deadline, the track was quickly composed in 2015 over a single night of spontaneous creative composition. Afterwards, Jonas still felt that something was missing, so he recorded a synth and added a bassline to serve as the counterpoint to the stark, organic piano arrangement.

Although just a brief 2 and a half minutes long, MMXV serves as an excellent introduction into the music of the young German composer. Emotive piano notes fall like a blanket of fresh snow as the electronic counterpoint provides some synthesized heat. Excellent use of panning as the piano and synth lines communicate back and forth for a memorable lesson in sublime simplicity.

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The magical world of Masakatsu Takagi

While many features on our blog are about up and coming musicians, part-timers, or those looking for a break, Masakatsu Takagi is very much a professional musician. While not a household name by any stretch, those interested in anime will have no doubt heard Takagi's work before. He has been a frequent collaborator with Mamoru Hosoda and has scored his highly acclaimed animation films, Wolf Children (2012), The Boy and the Beast (2015) and this year's Mirai (2018), which has already garnered rave reviews both in Japan and around the world.

The film was recently released in America through GKIDS. The soundtrack which contains our featured track, "Inner Garden" was released the same day by Milan Records based out of LA. While I haven’t had the chance to watch Mirai yet to comment on how the music harmonizes with the image, from what I've heard of the score, including this whimsical little number "Inner Garden", it more than stands on its own as a beautifully composed, emotional soundtrack.

Masakatsu Takagi has been compared to some great composers like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Goldmund, Philip Glass, Alexandra Streliski and more, but his work really stands on its own. There's a magical quality to his compositions. There’s a feeling of being in touch with nature, a simplicity, free of noise and clutter.

Our featured track, "Inner Garden" is a wonderful example of Takagi's talent and contains rich instrumentation ranging from delicate piano flutters, to chimes, wood blocks, strings and more. There's an Asian feeling to the tune, leaning towards Buddhism or Shintoism, as bells, blocks, chimes and a feeling of serenity loom throughout. There's almost a cyclical feeling emoted, which I'm sure has to do with themes in the film as, Mirai deals with a young boy travelling through time to meet his relatives from different generations.

The soundtrack to Mirai was recently released and comes highly recommended to fans of animation music, soundtracks, classical music and piano music. This is a piece of art everyone should really discover. It's a chance to shut off the noise of the world for a bit and be transported to a magical world created by Masakatsu Takagi.

Animation fans make sure to catch Mirai, especially if it's playing a theater near you. For the rest of us, if “Inner Garden” has piqued your interest, make sure to check out Masakatsu Takagi's other art, both in audio and visual form on the following platforms below:

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Keyboard virtuoso Rob Araujo with his new beat-oriented side project- Shopan

Being a marvel on the keys just isn’t enough for accomplished pianist Rob Araujo who’s continually pushing his creative boundaries with new sounds, styles and collaborations. Growing up studying classical piano from the age of 5, to playing competitively throughout middle and high school, it wasn’t until Rob reached University that his tastes shifted to include Jazz and hip-hop, eventually layering his productions with an effortless groove on top of his already strong technical foundation.

With the creation of his new side project ‘Shopan’, these beat-oriented productions will now have a dedicated output. Launching this laid back, lofi alias is the track ‘Greens’ alongside rising Portland producer ‘Quickly, Quickly’.

The track sees the beatscene sensibilities of Quickly seamlessly combined with the undeniable musicality of Araujo’s signature keys. Relaxed drums and percussion provide the framework for moments of jazzed-out sundown bliss.

Concluding with a kind of care-free weightlessness, chirping birds and a whistling stroll leaves us with a sense of new-found optimism to carry us through the week.

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Finnish film composer Kepa Lehtinen shares theremin serenade- 'Kontula'

Born in 1971 in Helsinki, Finland, Kepa Lehtinen has been deeply involved with music ever since he was a child. Whether it be pianos, synthesizers, theremins, drums or accordions, Kepa aimed to master his musical technique and develop his creative personality from a young age.

Eventually this led Kepa to pursue a full career in music which saw him first studying sound design at Aalto University in Helinski, and later appearing on countless film credits for his work as a composer, sound editor, and sound designer. His work has appeared across award winning Finnish titles such as Kimmo (TV series), Almost 18 (feature film), and A Stone Left Unturned (short).

This past April, Kepa released his first solo album entitled “Playing Theremin”, which fused analog synthesizers with the magic of the theremin. The result is a beautiful hybrid of organic and electronic elements; a sound as deliberate as it is delicate whereas even the smallest movements are felt by the listener.

Listen to the full album over on his Spotify

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Idm-tinged ambient-techno from German duo 'qrauer'

Creating a variety of left leaning electronica, from micro house to ambient techno, Christian Grochau and Ludwig Bauer aka qrauer are a breath of fresh air in the often formulaic world of modern dance music. With a 4/4 framework driving their tracks, the duo’s productions are heavy on lush sound design and sonic experimentation while remaining reined in enough to sit comfortably within an eclectic DJ set.

With both Christian and Ludwig coming from strong musical backgrounds, Christian being a virtuosic percussionist and Ludwig being a skilled pianist, composer and multi-instrumentalist, the two are able to find the perfect balance between danceable musicality and genre pushing electronic aesthetics.

Their debut EP ‘Aracus’ fully harnesses the duo’s creative powers and concentrates them into 4 tracks of organic sidewinder rhythms and awe-inspiring moments of cinematic brilliance. Brokebone is the concluding track of the album, with an off-kilter chorus of impressively honed percussive elements and richly coloured brutish leads, the track wraps up the EP nicely while leaving us hungry for the next sonic ‘tour de force’ from the ingenious German duo.

Support the release over on their Bandcamp

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