BOLTLP003: Cities of Cedar
Release date: 29th June 2008
CD and Digital
THIS RELEASE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE FROM THE BOLTFISH CATALOGUE ON CD. HOWEVER, YOU CAN STILL PURCHASE IT VIA DIGITAL DOWNLOAD FROM A RANGE OF ONLINE RETAILERS.
"...an album that will certainly be in my top ten at the end of the year!" - Crumbs in the Butter
"a smashing bit of work and gets a big thumbs up from me." - Smallfish
All tracks © City Rain/Boltfish Recordings 2008
Obfusc returns with his much anticipated debut full-length album. Alongside beautifully crafted tracks from Obfusc himself, there are also remixes by other artists.
The artist envisages this release as a "sort of statement of acceptance to urban existence, for good or worse", and this collection of beat-based organic electronica and minimal ambient interludes conjures up images that parallel the artist’s own photography – a focus on the details and textures of everyday life, an aesthetic of urban decay that draws attention to the beauty of the abandoned and disused – cracked and peeling paint, rust, discarded objects, empty spaces.
A specially commissioned video for 'Amateur Cartography' by Jason Banker also accompanied the first batch of CD sales on a beautifully-packaged, limited edition DVD. (DVD also featured additional IPod compatible video and bonus desktop wallpapers)
You can preview this album on Last FM at:
Featured video for this release
The official video for "Amateur Cartography" - featured on the limited edition DVD originally available with this release. Directed by Jason Banker.
E|I Mag- Installment 18
"Metropolises of a similar sort emerge on Obfusc’s sophomore effort Cities of Cedar, and judging from Brooklyner Joseph Burke, the view outside his window must be nothing short of postcard paradise. He makes no bones about the clarity of his vision; unlike his chosen moniker, the music doesn’t so much bewilder as bewitch. Obfusc bridge gaps between vaseline-smeared beat poetics and countryside ambient, a rural, elegiac, backwoods synthtopia made that much more incongruous by Burke’s studio locale. He does utilize various samples and observations a la Bill Nelson’s orchestras arcana, making due with similar methods de appliqué: "Delayed Sunshine Reaction" waxes like some leftover 60s bit of radiophonic psychedelia, guitarsurge going headfirst against tictac snares and whisper-pitch electronics. "Close Your Eyes and Daydream" is techno lite for the hacker generation, dewy, gauzy, indistinct but patently gorgeous for it, Burke smartly incorporating "real" sampled drums and cymbals to anchor the oozing, effervescent electronic bubblebath. Of course, those of more discerning opinions will be quick to recognize such noises across the Board (as in Canada), but such narrowmindedness would negate the wonderful miasma of a track like "Mood Gradient," whose little fluffy clouds, buffeted by windy drum machine dada, channel Cluster into the finest pop-art soul balm. The aforementioned City Rain, plus Milieu, Phasen, Electric West, and Ova Looven, remake some of the works here in their own image, proffering a handy addendum to the proceedings; if anything, their inability to wholly transform, neé obfuscate, the central melodic characters whipped up by their colleague says much about Burke’s gift of electronic gab."
Instrumental Record of the week
"Brooklyn native Joseph X. Burke's full-length debut has been a much anticipated arrival at NLP headquarters. Like his previous EPs, the warm electronics here float effortlessly like opaque analog clouds being penetrated by steadfast glitched-out sun rays. Other Boltfish artists provide just as impressive remixes of some of the album's songs as the ultimate bonus toward the disc's end as well. Simultaneously inviting and propulsive, the varied layers of Obfusc's music shines brightly on this week's nowlikephotographs "
"More quality IDM-oriented electronica from UK imprint Boltfish. This time out, it's Obfusc, the nom de plume of Brooklyn-based photographer and graphic designer Joseph Burke, who mans the controls for his debut full-length 's ten originals and five supplementary remixes. Burke himself regards Cities of Cedar as a statement of acceptance of urban existence, for better or worse (apparently the idea permeates his photographic work too, with the erosion of the urban environment—cracked and peeling paint, rust, discarded objects—a theme returned to repeatedly), though there's admittedly not a whole lot of grit dirtying up Obfusc 's generally pretty pieces. Whatever grime there is comes in the form of the field elements (water, wind chimes), sampled voices, and found sounds that surface intermittently, an approach that asserts itself at the outset when "Blue Morning Light" combines echoing chords with La Jetée-styled ambiance.
Par for the Boltfish course, Obfusc's tracks are polished to a sleek sheen and impeccably crafted but occasionally lack bite: willowy synth melodies in "Amateur Cartography" transport us to Boards of Canada territory, while "Climb Through the Basement Window" and "Sounds from Shattered Seashells" offer up a nice acoustic guitar-synth interlude and peaceful prettiness, respectively. The tracks that stand out are the harder-edged beat-based cuts (such as "Close Your Eyes and Daydream") where the funk grooves give the material the heft it needs to distinguish itself from the work of kindred genre spirits. The album kicks into highest gear when "Delayed Sunshine Reaction" boosts its hazy synth melodies and voice samples with rough-edged beat patterning.
And, as with many a Boltfish release, the artist's originals are rounded out by a handful of remixes by label associates. But it's telling that, in every case, the remixers amp up the material with funkier grooves and the material's all the better for it; in truth, it wouldn't be overstating it to say that the remix versions better the originals. Milieu and Phasen boost the appeal of their respective makeovers, "Sounds From Shattered Seashells" and "Morning Walk to the Pier," with injections of downtempo head-nodding rhythms. City Rain amps up the funk quotient of "Amateur Cartography" while Electricwest significantly bolsters the dreaminess of "Climb Through the Basement Window." Out of nowhere comes the album's most glorious moment, Ova Looven's remix of "Close Your Eyes and Daydream" which transforms the original into a sparkling electro-funk setting that culminates in an episode of heavenly vocal counterpoint. "
Translated from original Italian
"...inspiration suspended between dream and reality"
Read the original review
Crumbs in the Butter - 8/10
"Brooklyn based Joseph X Burke (Obfusc), has managed to seize the vibe of a NY summer. He cools it down and makes it a refreshing tonic for the soul. The overall feeling here is chilled, like being on a tube train for an hour and diving straight into an ice cold shower. Invigorating, crisp and clean.
This album is an urban ride through a overwhelming landscape in search of a retreat...
"Amateur Cartography," for instance, is like the sound of the sun rising as eyes open and feeling the last piece of crisp air before the sun hits on a humid morning. High synths bubble up and the main riff breezes in and calms the soul. Like Isan, but more gltchy and alluring.
Cars in the distance rattle past, rub the crisp sleep from your eyes, and the sun rises again. "Delayed Sunshine Reaction" This song awakens those very same senses. This would put anyone in the mood for a days work. Smooth silky synths - guitars offset the digital motion with an analogue calm. A great track that reminds me of long bus journeys, staring from the window, watching the world fly past.
As you get further into the album, a sense that a journey is taking place is felt. Travelling through urban areas. Condensed, too many people, too many cars and all you want is solace. Obfusc is a musical oasis, a polluted chemical reaction that ionises the soul as each new track appears. The tracks build and you can breathe the city in and exhale it all away.
"Morning Walk To The Pier" trickles to life and you have to smile at the title. It's just that; the musical version of breathing in sea air and closing your eyes as the sun bursts through your eye lids. The construction of the song is outstanding, as glitches, synths, keyboard and drums flutter melting together creating a warm clear melody--- you just want to lay down and soak it in.
"The Perfect Summer Album," that phrase is banded about every year and living in London, I rarely get the warmth in that statement. However, when I think of summer 2008 and want my own little musical polaroid of a perfect summer, I will visit "Cities Of Cedar."
This is the debut full length release by this artist and I am blown away that he has created such a "whole" album at the start of his musical journey. Obfusc has a very bright future and Boltfish Recordings have released an album that will certainly be in my top ten at the end of the year!"
"For his day job, Joseph Burke works as a photographer and graphic designer in New York. Yet away from his usual employment, Burke becomes electronica artist Obfusc who sees his first album as a "sort of statement of acceptance to urban existence, for good or worse". As one would hope for, ‘Cities Of Cedar’ is an evocative record and one which stands on its own two feet as an exercise in melodic electronic music.
For ‘Delayed Sunshine Reaction’, the analogue keyboards cast images of blinking into the morning sun on to the "empty streets". ‘Close Your Eyes And Daydream’ initially seems to be another Boards Of Canada rip-off but the cute analog tune and layers of electronica mean that the title of the track is really a recommendation forhowit should belistened to. Other notable moments such as "Morning Walk To The Pier’ and ‘Mood Gradient’ resemble an earthbound Avrocar.
Remixes added to the end of an album tend to be a way of padding out shorter, less substantial releases but the ones included here actually add value. Boltfish labelmate Milieu, for example, filters ‘Sounds From Shattered Seashells’ through a chilly, ambient gauze whilst Phasen’s wintry treatment of ‘Morning Walk To The Pier’ is eerily beautiful. Then Ova Looven manage to make ‘Close Your Eyes And Daydream’ even more blissed-out.
Burke is very astute in his choice of samples whether it’s the sound of rushing water or snatches of conversation, there’s always an air of mystery apparent. Similarly, the music is enigmatic but uncluttered and always melodic and atmospheric enough to hold the listener’s attention for its sixty-minute duration. In fact, Burke’s only problem is that several of the remixes here are superior to his own original versions."
Smallfish Records - 11/08/08
"What an absolutely lovely album this is from Obfusc. You expect goodness from Boltfish and, as usual, they've delivered. A delicate, melodic and very charming set of tracks with a great chilled out feel featuring some delicious chord sounds, clever structures and some rather pleasing and slightly more abstract interlude tracks. Not content with a full albums worth of material, there are remixes from U-Cover's Phasen, Electricwest, Milieu, City Rain and Ova Looven. All in all it's a smashing bit of work and gets a big thumbs up from me. Recommended."