Reviews - Music For The Home & Others

Review: Grooves   Date: August 2001
Music For The Home

Far from the precise rhythmic workouts of his sessions with PJ Harvey and Laika, Music For The Home finds Rob Ellis leaving the drumkit at home (for the most part) and getting comfortable behind pianos, organs and all manner of antiquated ephemera. Although its title suggests an ambient leaning, the 20 tracks presented here are, to be fair, heavily influenced by 20th century avant-garde classical composition, albeit informed with a subtle post-ambient approach.

The album offers many approaches and styles, but the organ works of Olliver Messiaen certainly seem to have played a major role, ascetic meditations as they are. Much of the disc creates a fluttering amid a polytonal canvas, disorientating as often it is playful. Ellis only worked with strict mathematical systems on one track, yet the apparent freedom on display seems to be worked out within complex serial tonal systems. Glokenspiel , windup instruments, and various amounts of horizontal fuzz make appearances, occasionally imbuing Music For The Home with a carnival-like quality. Like the work of Eric Satie and Toru Takemitsu, Music For The Home is challenging as it is incidental. Exactly what he was going for, I presume.

Alexis Georgopoulos © Grooves

Review: Dutch East   Date: August 2001
Music For The Home

Starts off in a rather ambient noise vein, but quickly changes its tone to a softer more experimental sound. At times the music is very quirky, from the psychotic piano in track six to the keyboard tatter of track nine. Many times this turns out to be nothing more than a collage of freaky sounds in very short time frames. You could easily put this CD on random, and have a whole new out look. The samples are reminiscent of children's toys, if you remember the little pull toy xylophone with the colored bars, that is track 14.

This is not for the faint hearted, or any chill out session, it's for the complete destruction of the word ambient. This is a complete directionless collection of sounds, very rude, crude and completely psychotic; Psychotic enough to scare any intelligent life from the planet, or from your living room (depending on your speakers).

jackthetab © Dutch East

Review: Mojo   Date: April 2001
Leaf Compilation (Mixed by Susumu Yokota)

High points of the dance label's best moments so far, assembled by their resident Japenese ambient genius, Susumu Yokota.

There is always something slightly worrying about the appearance of yet another mix CD. The prospect, for example, of every last available second being crammed with a seamless torrent of generic tracks imperceptibly morphing into one another and the dull realisation that that's actually the point. Fortunately, Susumu Yokota's mix for the Leaf Compilation exhibits none of these dubious characteristics. In it we go from the sound of psychotic wind-up toys on Rob Ellis's Music For The Home #3 to the beautiful loop static textures of Yokota's own Gekkoh, via everything from the kiddie electro of Beige Monolake's brilliant remix/reinvention of Eardrum's Low Order. Goodness, on occasions we even get the old school pleasure of one track beginning after the previous one has faded out. Now that's what I call mixing.

Pete Gonzalez © Mojo

Review: Freakout   Date: May 2004
Music for the home vol II

Tra le pagine del nostro sito non molto frequentemente ci capita di ospitare realizzazioni come quella che sto andando a presentare, interpretata al pianoforte ed elettronica da un musicista contemporaneo particolarmente impegnato in collaborazioni ed apparizioni per progetti musicali che si discostano non poco dalla sua preparazione classica; già le uscite per la sua band, Spleen, facevano pensare ad un tipo di attività tutt'altro che concertistica, altresì facevano le recenti collaborazioni nelle uscite discografiche di P.J. Havey, Placebo e addirittura per i nostri Marlene Kuntz. Avrete capito che di tutt'altro ci si occupa tra le mura domestiche della casa di Rob Ellis, dove ancora risuonano le moderne applicazioni della musica concreta e contemporanea dei maestri del novecento; Debussy, Cage, Reich, Messianen, Glass, artisti dalla grande personalità, da cui risulta difficile affrancarsi, seppur carichi delle migliori intenzioni, dell'esperienza e di tutte le apparecchiature

G Ancora © Freakout

Review: Uncut   Date: April 2000
Leaf Compilation (Mixed by Susumu Yokota)

Leaf specialises in ambitious instrumental electronic music, and this 25-track mix CD has been chosen and arranged by label superstar Yokota (whose Sakura album last year garnered lavish critical praise in the UK and Europe). Here are 60 minutes of evocative abstract soundscapes (including some previously unavailable cuts) from the likes of Rob Ellis, Manitoba, 310, Freeform, Pole, Beige, Rothko and Yokota himself. The beautiful abstract cover photo and sleeve design - both by Yokota - make this a near-perfect item..

Paul Johnson © Uncut

Review: The Sunday Times   Date: 4 March 2001
Leaf Compilation (Mixed by Susumu Yokota)

Pay Attention: this is confusing. Susumu Yokota is an ambient composer, whose Sakura was last year named Electronica Album Of The Year by one music magazine. Sakura came out on Leaf. But the Leaf Compilation - which, as the name suggests, is a compilation from the Leaf label's back catalogue - isn't on Leaf. It's on Yokota's own Skintone label. Still, never mind. Yokota uses only the lightest of touches to piece together this collection of avant-garde yet accessible tracks by artists such as Rothko, Pole, 310, Manitoba and Rob Ellis. Like Yokota's own work, the result is blissful. And the fact that it allows you to impress the hell out of dinner-party guests ("Oh, that? Well, it's originally by Four Tet, but then it was remixed by Pole, although actually this particular version comes from a Susumu Yokota album") is just a bonus.

Mark Edwards © The Sunday Times

Review: M Harrison   Date: March 2001
Music For The Home

I don't normally write to anyone about anything but having just wasted £13 on what is hysterically described as your 'new album', I am perfectly prepared to make an exception.

I mean are you having a fucking laugh? I have had my ears assulted by all manner of aural detritus over the years but this piece of irretrievably talentless horseshit is exceptional by any standards of shitness. It simply defies belief that you would have the audacity to try and pass it off as music. And I thought Dali's Car had plumbed the depths. The good news is that HMV have a no-quibble money-back policy.

Congratulations on establishing a new benchmark in shitness and, for fucks sake, don't give up the day job.

Yours, M Harrison (via E-mail)

Review: 7   Date: 14 February 2001
Leaf Compilation (Mixed by Susumu Yokota)

An exciting prospect as Susumu Yokota (who scored with last year's album for Leaf, 'Sakura') is allowed access to The Leaf label's divine musical electica, to select whatever he fancies for his compilation CD. Foraging deep into their back catalogue, he provides a superb cross-section of music, producing a mix that is quite stunning - varied, intricate and yet seemingly simple in execution. Artists such as Rob Ellis, Manitoba, Four Tet, Rothko, Pole, P'Tang, Ronnie & Clyde, Sons Of Silence etc, etc, make an appearance, plus there are a couple of tracks from Yokota as well. In all, 25 tracks are gently mixed into a fluidly seductive masterpiece. It would be a shame if it remained a Japenese only release as it deserves a much wider audience, but still, it's definately worth paying that bit extra for.

Darren Wall © 7

Review: Overload   Date: 2001
Leaf Compilation (Mixed by Susumu Yokota)

I didn't want to take up too much length for this review as there are only fifty or so copies of this Japan-only release floating around the UK at present, but when you combine one of the UK's most eclectic electronic labels with one of Japan's most wanted DJ/Producers the results are certainly worth documenting. Mot so much mixed as hand picked and arranged in order with slight overlap, Yokota's twenty-five-track selection is certainly a more digestible introduction to Leaf's non-agenda than the pluckey Osmosis compilation from 1999, culling nothing to harsh or obtrusive from the vaults. Featuring the highly individualistic production talents of Pole, 310, Freeform, Manitoba and Yokota himself, there's certainly no critisism in the music: a fine spread of the label's rich organic produce from 1997 to 2000, including a few previously unreleased gems. Yokota's fading between the tracks is very rapid at times yet there's little to complain about as attempting to blend such a bold palette of material in more of a complex method than this would require far too much effort for significant improvement. In any case, the ordering of the mix is majestic: from the captivating tribal groove of Eardrum's 'Swarm' with it's hot moody vibe and flustered brass section, to tipped-out xylophone dittied from Rob Ellis and skeletal future funk from Beige. There may be millions of mix CDs lurking out there, but very few have a shelf life anywhere near as long as this. And no, you can't have mine.

Franklyn J © Overload

Review: Future Music   Date: January 2001
Music For The Home

Rob Ellis - who's worked with PJ Harvey and Laika - here draws from contemporary classical influences and adds the odd smidgen of free jazz and electronics. It's a meandering, scattered jigsaw of pretension, beauty, film-noir-style suspense and baty tinkling sound effects. Eno apparently loves it and Scott Walker's sampled from it.

7 Stars

Gal Detourn © Future Music Magazine

Review: Beat Magazine   Date: 2 January 2001
Music For The Home

This is an album recommended for any fan of PJ Harvey. Rob Ellis is Polly Jean's drummer, you see, and co-producer of her/their latest album, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea.

But Ellis's debut release, Music For The Home, is nothing like PJ Harvey. For one thing, it doesn't have any songs on it: no singing, no basslines, no rockin' drum-beats. The album's subtitle should shed a little more light: Instrumental, Mechanical & Electronic Music 1994-1999. Yes, you could say it's a concept album but that would only lump it in with all the other 'abstract' records like 'Kid A' and 'Smell The Glove', and it doesn't really deserve that. Currently heralded by the likes of Scott Walker (who sampled a loop from Atlantic Crossing for his guest-role on the new Ute Lemper album) and Brian Eno (who has, of course, already planted his big flappy flags upon most of the 'ambient/soundtrack' landscapes before, many, many eons ago), Music For The Home is - in turns - strange, disconsolate, theatrical, minimilist, alien, homely, crazy, and often genuinely moving.

Comprising of 21 instrumental 'fragments' collected over 6 years of experiments in electronic, jazz, and modern classical music, Ellis has created a contemporary, yet essentially timeless suite unlike anything else around. From the first listen, you can instantly reel off many apparent comparisons, inspirations, and half-forgotten cross-references to those quirky atmospheric pieces: you could easily compare it to Eno's seminal Music For Airports ('78), John Cale's mournfully stark Music For A New Society ('82), or to Aphex Twin's curiously haunting Selected Ambient Works Volume II ('94), but ultimately, Music For The Home offers something completely different in design, form and mood. It's also a bit of a tease, always leaving you wanting it to hang around just a little while longer - a somewhat short-but-sweet experience (6 tracks clocking in around 1 minute, 9 around a minute and a half), and with many tracks suddenly stopping dead for no apparent reason, just when you're getting to like them.And it's not exactly easy listening. Most of the time, it's hard to work out just what it is you're actually listening to. As well as a varied collection of classical instruments (percussion, strings, piano, cello, guitar), Ellis has also veered off the electric-ambient course to play around with more arcane, tentative, unusual sounds - like music boxes (Hang Up No.3, Symphonies Of Wind-Up Instruments), electrical toys (Squealer The Con), some kind of typewriter on auto-pilot (Mustic For The Home Vol1), and a bunch of old bagpipes dying a slow and wheezing death under an avalanche (Artic Crossing).

Whether you're in it for the warm-but-downcast classical beauty (Cedez, Jerky), or the high-pitched schizophrenic mood-swings (Round, Pinky The Dreamer), Music For The Home is certainly a brave and shamelessly off-kilter modern ambient release:simple, barren, sometimes silly, and frequently scary. Just don't play it at night with the lights out, or anywhere near a big dog with sharp teeth.

Richard Gaudion © Beat

Review: Uncut   Date: January 2001
Music For The Home

Exquisite contemporary classical-electronic soundscapes

Sub-titled Instrumental, Mechanical & Electronic Music 1994-1999, Music For The Home comprises a suite of 21 songs pieced together from fragments recorded over several years. A blend of live playing and processed sounds, these tracks utilise forms and techniques garnered from classical music, jazz and electronica.

Ellis is best known by proxy, having worked with PJ Harvey since her first album Dry, and co-produced her new album Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. His own band Spleen have already released two albums, but this first solo effort reveals a hitherto unseen side to his talent: that of avant-garde pianist and percussionist.

Brian Eno has personally endorsed Ellis' use of his Music For... series title, and it's easy to understand why. Like Eno's earlier experimental pieces, these tracks are easily appreciable by anyone who has listened to 20th century instrumental music, be it jazz, rock or film soundtracks.

Opening track "Out Of It" blasts the listener awake with a ferocious feedback assault which somehow mutates into a simple acoustic guitar piece. "Six Pieces For Fake Instruments" is a series of atonal vignettes played on piano, xylophone and organ, reminiscent of the work of Schoenberg. "Symphonies Of Wind-Up Instruments" strays into Nyman territory, but succeeds by dint of the vibrant rhythmic organisation. "American Dream For Three Pianos" is melody-driven, with dreamlike piano colour tones.

This is an astonishing debut album, worthy of a large audience, not to mention critical acclaim.

Paul Johnson © Uncut

Review: Mojo   Date: January 2001
Music For The Home

Instrumental album from PJ Harvey collaborator.

Better known as Polly Harvey's drummer (and co-producer of her latest opus), Rob Ellis demonstrates here an interesting sideline in keyboard instrumentals of a vaguely neo-classical/ambient/jazz bent. If that suggests the tepid audio bathwater of 'new age' muzak, however, the album's subtitle - Instrumental, Mechanical & Electronic Music 1994-1999 - hints at rather grander ambitions, as does Ellis's penchant for multi-sectioned compositions such as the Six Pieces For Fake Instruments, which run the gamut from tentative jazz vibraphone noodlings and organ improvisations to a full-blown Sun Ra synthscape on the concluding Starry Sky section. Elsewhere, styles range from the airy, reflective vista of AMerican Dream For Three Pianos to the interlocking lines of Ellis's Symphonies Of Wind-Up Instruments, a trio of pieces designed for "imaginary music boxes" which betrays the welcome influence of American player-piano genius Conlon Nancarrow. It's courageous stuff, realising complex musical ideas without getting too uneasy on the ear.

Andy Gill © Mojo

Review: The Wire Date: December 2000
Music For The Home

Ideals of beauty

Could it be that Rob Ellis drew one of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies cards - "Honour thy errors as hidden intentions" - in the process of making his Music For The Home ? The album started life as a grouping of solo piano pieces (Ellis cheerfully admits his status as an amateur pianist) that, over a period of six years, grew into something completely different. Its lengthy gestation is down to Ellis' fulltime role as drummer and producer of PJ Harvey's group, not to mention his former extracurricular activities, his solo project Spleen, and occasional spells as a percusionist in Laika. The new album's subtitle, Instrumental, Mechanical And Electronic Music 1994-1999, is a clue to it's provenance - Ellis locates the disc's 21 tracks within his longstanding fascination for early 20th century repertoire.

Not least, Music For The Home serves notice to quit on anyone tempted to pigeonhole him. Composed of singular mood turns, the album's blurred blend of organic and synthetic sound covers a lot of ground - freeform jazz rhythms are played out on typewriters, while serialist tone rows and colourful, Debussy-style spaces emphasise the organisational powers gone into the CD. Yet its overarching spirit, in terms of tonality and spirit, is of Olivier Messiaen. "Well, " says Ellis, "Massiaen's approach to structure was personal to him, and based on much more universal themes of religion and nature. i've come from the point of view of someone who's always loved that music, not just Messiaen, but Satie, Ravel, Stravinsky, right through to Britten and Boulez. They have always influenced me and in one way, this is a fan's response to their music. The thematic line is my own personal affair with their work."

While fan-inspired homages are not unknown, what distinguishes Ellis's work i sthe impact of his idol on his music's structure. "I hesitate to say it, but 'beauty' is the first word I'd use", he says. A pause, then an emphatic reiteration: "Yes, beauty. That may sound a bit odd based on the Spleen recordings, but the idea of this album was to pursue the mystery and beauty that can be found in music. These were major preoccupations, and ones people shouldn't be afraid of."

Such thinking also extended to his recent work witth PJ Harvey. Immediately after finishing Music For The Home, Ellis travelled from his Somerset home to the Milton Keynes studio where the two Harveys, Polly and co-producer Mick (of The Bad Seeds), were waiting for him. "The three of us were at some kind of crossroads. We had been talking about beauty and how we would apply it to [her album] Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, and not be afraid of it. We all went to see American Beauty when we were making the record. First of all, we loved the soundtrack music, but also the film seemed to be about something much bigger than the simple subject matter of the story. We couldn't put our finger on what it was. Beauty is the quality you get from something that's somehow mysterious."

Moving from the abstract to the more tangible, Ellis hit on various ways to structure the material on his own album. The opening track 'Out Of It' is a tantilising series of hints built around a recording of Britten's Nocturnal After John Dowland played by guitarist Michael Partington. Elsewhere, layers of electronic sound shift and refocus the listener's attention and, in the process, open up a series of faultlines through which a track's history can be excavated. "It's a crime thriller idea, " Ellis offers. "You can make teneous links, themed links and obscure ones. You can talk about intentionality or the lack of it. Sometimes, out of this messy layer of sound a piece of music suddenly reveals itself."

At other times, he returned to ideas of proportion, making use of medieval (and later) concepts of the geometric organisation of music. He praises Xenakis's stochastic method and, seperately, serialism. He is attracted as much by their rigour as the emotional warmth he finds therein. But a book about Debussy and proportion, by an Italian mathematician, triggered his numerical sequences. For "Towards Dust Spiral Section", Ellis spent two months number-crunching his way towards an end. "It was my one experiment with total adstraction. I put nothing of myself into it. I wanted to see what would happen," he says. "The notes I chose for the sequence were based on this escalation of numbers, I was off the calculator scale before I found the last note. It was absurd, I was actually going through a very bad period in my life at the time, and I reacted by being totally emotionally cold and sitting there programming numbers. I don't think I would ever do it again. It was totally obsessional."

And that's the balance of it. Music For The Home makes some brave admissions, something that accentuates its admixture of strength and vulnerability. Above all, it's a collection of pieces that bears extended listening on multiple levels, as a way of integrating music with social space - the fullest and most original definition and realisation of Ambient sound. The next day, Ellis calls to tell me, "I heard on a Radio 3 documentary that most people listen to contemporary classical music while they're doing the housework. You know, dusting and ironing." He sounds pleased.

Louise Gray ©The Wire 2000

 

Review: David Cotner
Music For The Home

Sweeping ur-klang tones ring out, sing out - travelling across the watercrests to find their own level. This is a compact disc, details in the title. There is no other information at hand. They float up onto an island of dulcet tones and organic organry. Pianissimo lives in there - that vast verdant veldt of outtakes and mistakes. Sounds pool into lakes and streams, spattered to the shores by this curiosity splashing one way or t'other. Insects in sound buzz past more somber beasts that wait and watch for something they know is coming - but presently remains unrevealed.

Music for the home - but whose, exactly? One's desire to have one's music heard is an invitation of sorts - but to do what? To go where? Or just what is it? Is the music itself a home - in which one lives, spends a certain amount of time with an implicit welcome from the owner? Or is it a room - large and separated from a wider entity, and explicitly meant to stay that way?

David Cotner © D Cotner

 

Review: Bizarre Date: December 2000
Music For The Home

Ellis is a longtime PJ Harvey collaborator who's finally brought out five years' worth of his own material. It's ultra minimal, pretty abstract, unflinchingly cerebral and slightly paranoid. If you ever feel the urge to take an axe to your dining room table, this could be the appropriate soundtrack.

Mark Blacklock © Bizarre

 

Review: Sunday Herald Date: 3 December 2000
Music For The Home

Rob Ellis is best known for his work with PJ Harvey. Given the imaginative reach of this collaboration, you might suppose that his solo material would be envelope-pushing stuff. And you'd be right. Indie rock is definately not on the agenda. As the title suggests, Music For The Home owes more to Brian Eno than the Warm Jets. The 52 minute disc is divided into three suites of instrumental music and intermediate pieces and there is certainly no one dominant mood. Ellis seems happy to bliss us out with lovely ambient textures one moment then scare us rigid the next, mixing up the sound of typewriter keys with discordant chimes. And if Satan played Chopsticks, it would sound suspiciously like the title track.

Peter Ross © Sunday Herald

 

Review: Wax Date: December 2000
Music For The Home

If this is music for your home, then you will indeed have a very strange and convoluted home life. Rob Ellis, best known for his production work with PJ Harvey, has made a very difficult album by piecing together fragments of his private recordings over the last five years. With elements of classical, jazz and electronica, it makes wonderful sense at times, and none whatsoever at others. It makes me think of Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' in many ways - it's in a similar vein to Leaf's 'Invisible Soundtracks' series, to which Ellis has contributed, with compositions that are mysterious, often beautiful, and often spookily blank canvasses on which to project your innermost thoughts. Believe me, this is not an easy ride.

Steve Nickolls © Wax

 

Review: Play Date: 11-17 November 2000
Music For The Home

"The floorboards creek. Upstairs someone is playing a fractured polka on an old piano, while down in the basement something is definately stirring. So who would like in a house like this?" That's easy Lloyd, Rob Ellis. Pianist, percussionist and long-time friend of PJ Harvey, Ellis has turned his considerable talents to contemporary calssical composition. Part Lalo Schiffrin, part Erik Satie, but mostly unique, Music For The Home sees Ellis weave together seemingly disjointed fragments of sound. And, with the album being championed by the likes of Scott Walker and Brian Eno, it seems Ellis may be on to something. You might want politely to decline the invitation to stay the weekend, though.

Angus Bateyt © Play

 

Review: NME Date: 11 November 2000
Music For The Home

Even without bit parts in underground films or sculpture commissions at Tate Modern, Rob Ellis already has the CV of a renaissance man. A drummer, arranger and sometimes co-producer with PJ Harvey; responsible for strings on Placebo's latest album; percussionist with Laika; major domo with Spleen... One would imagine his restless spirit has had its fill. But no. Here's an 'environmental' album, supposedly comparable to the works of Steve Reich and Steve Martland. And, in reality, you can only blame Brian Eno for those intellectual pursuits disguised as ambient albums, like 'Music For Airports', all those years ago.

Nothing really unpleasant takes place, of course, even if the opening suite of white noise would suggest a difficult undertaking is at hand. Ellis has digitally edited and layered piano pieces, random noises, and curious instruments to form a suite of impressionist interludes that lull the listener and jar at appropriate intervals.

On 'Parade In Your Palm', he's like Rasputin let loose on a keyboard, while the excellent and evocative, penultimate, 'Artic Crossing' features rhythm for the first time, with drum thwacks like footfalls in the snow. Heck, 'Copy!' even features a typewriter as backing track. A not altogether disagreeable distraction.

Dele Fadele © NME

 

Review: The Wire Date: November 2000
Music For The Home

Rob Ellis - Music For The Home & Hazel Winter - Put Away The Sharp Knives

These releases are not so tenuously linked by the presence of Rob Ellis and Hazel Winter's producer John Parish, they're both best known for their involvement in PJ Harvey's group. While Ellis remains in favour, as producer of the Yeovil Queenie's latest album, drummer/bassist Parish has moved on to pastures new.

Or rather not so new, sice he has found another, paler Polly in singer-songwriter and guitarist Winter. No disparagement is intended: the would-be edgy, sexual imagery and relationship angst of her hoarsely whispered lyrics will surely speak loud to recently liberated indie girls and music weekly writers alike. Doubtless her songs are just as meaningful to Winter herself. Nor is there much to complain about in her music. The drum, bass and keyboard parts are all played by Parish (with guitar input from Portishead's Adrian Utley). He has seamlessly integrated living-room Grunge rawness with studio punch, keeping Winter's little girl lisp up close, while grounding her jerky forward motions with her slide-heavy riffs. Yet it's hard to escape the feeling that this is Polly by numbers, a well-crafted, though ultimately meaningless, facsimile of liberated feminine psycho-fantasies, aiming to capitalise on ground forst broken by a focused and fascinating original.

If Parish seems happier recreating the past, Ellis has one eye on an alternative future. Putting aside the gothic horror atmospherics of his earlier project Spleen, and his avant-pop collaborations with Laika, he gives his compositional skills free rein on Music For The Home . Originally conceved as a solo piano album, Ellis eventually let his fascination with the outer reaches of electronica and avant classicism overcome any reservations about his self-taught keyboard technique. Recorded over five years, the result is a highly personal tapestry of fragments that veers unevenly between the obsessive control of a classical composer and a more relaxed attitude towards the accidental. Perhaps the most telling tracks are those where Ellis relinquishes compositional control to an orchestra of music boxes and mechanical noisemakers, let loose on a kind of Nutcracker Suite scored by a disturbed toymaker. Elsewhere the sounds are more predictable, but no less effective. Ice-slow Feldman progressions, socket popping and interference, ghostly cello and even typewriter sounds rub shoulders through felicitous editing. The pace feels glacially measured, with some piano glissandi restrained by a chill classical tone. If Ellis's aim was to create a perfect soundtrack for rainswept English autumn afternoons on the cusp of winter, then he has almost succeeded. It's a brave and enjoyable record, all the more so for entering a domain that is so suspicious of avant-pop dilettantes.

Alan Cummings © The Wire

 

Review: Music Week Date: 25 November 2000
Music For The Home

Ellis Album Poses Classical Challenge

Sometime PJ Harvey collaborator Rob Ellis has set a potentially intriguing challenge for his lastest album.

Music For The Home is released on the Leaf Label on November 27 and reflects what the percussionist and self-taught composer describes as his "many years of personal fascination with contemporary classical music, jazz and electronica". The composer's serious pop credentials may determine where Music For The Home is racked in-store, although its contents suggest a stronger affiliation with contemporary classical music. Ellis's album evolved from a collection of works for solo piano, gradually transformed using electronics and a sophisticated "orchestration" of music boxes, wind-up and other mechanical instruments, and cello and guitar. The results call to mind everything from Fifties avant-garde scores to the motor rhythms of Steve Martland and Steve Reich, tinged with Messiaen-like harmonies, aspects of free form jazz and Morton Feldman's most tranquil style. Despite the eclectic range of influences, Ellis manages to draw his suite of short pieces into a strong overall composition. A positive review in November's issue of The Wire and Brian Eno's personal endorsement should help set the album in retail motion.

Andrew Stuart © Music Week

 

Review: Music Week Date: 11 November 2000
Music For The Home

West country maverick Rob Ellis is best known for his producction work for PJ Harvey but his fascination with contemporary calssical and electronica is expressed here. It should appeal to those with a taste for the off-kilter.

Owen Lawrence © Music Week

 

Review: The Independent Date: 24 November 2000
Music For The Home

Better known as Polly Harvey's drummer (and co-producer of her latest opus), Rob Ellis demonstrates here an interesting sideline in keyboard instrumentals of a vaguely neo-classical/ambient/jazz bent. If that suggests the tepid audio bathwater of 'new age' muzak, however, the album's subtitle - Instrumental, Mechanical & Electronic Music 1994-1999 - hints at rather grander ambitions, as does Ellis's penchant for multi-sectioned compositions such as the Six Pieces For Fake Instruments, which run the gamut from tentative jazz vibraphone noodlings and organ improvisations to a full-blown Sun Ra synthscape on the concluding Starry Sky section. Elsewhere, styles range from the airy, reflective vista of AMerican Dream For Three Pianos to the interlocking lines of Ellis's Symphonies Of Wind-Up Instruments, a trio of pieces designed for "imaginary music boxes" which betrays the welcome influence of American player-piano genius Conlon Nancarrow. It's courageous stuff, realising complex musical ideas without getting too uneasy on the ear.

Andy Gill © The Independent

 

Review: Music Week Date: 25 November 2000
Music For The Home

Ellis is best known for his work with PJ Harvey, having appeared on her records sice her debut Dry. But there is nothing here to connect Ellis to Harvey's excoriating guitar rock, nor even to the avant-pop pf Laika, the experimental duo for wholm he sometimes plays perussion. The 21 musical fragments here were written over a five-year period as pieces for piano, but have ended up reflecting the composer's fascination with jazz, classical and electronica: instead of merely playing the pieces, Ellis glued their parts together, reassembling them, creating new permutations like a DJ with a sampler. The title recalls Brian Eno's series of proto-ambient Music For... records; listening to the terror-drone of Out Of It and the frozen-tundra desolation of Artic Crossing, perhaps the album should have been called Music For The Home During A Nuclear Winter.

Paul Lester © The Guardian

 

Review: Press Association Date: 2000
Music For The Home

The obscure yet utterly vital release this week comes from Rob Ellis. He's currently riding high in both English and American charts as a major collaborator on the new PJ Harvey album. And in fact he's been a principle hometown member of Polly's gang since the early days. So ever since his role there became a day-job of sorts, the man's been recording his own cinematic neo-classical instruments on the side and hoarding them for just this kind of a rainy day.

'Music For The Home' is a brilliant collection of brief, glissando-riddles pieces. One moment it's a slightly hissing atmospheric noise , then suddenly you're deep in avant jazz territory, while frantic piano scales or vibrophone runs charge all over the place. Effortlessly dynamic, with melodies popping up at the most awkward moment, this collection has immense clarity throughout.

And that's despite being collected together from recordings made over a five-year period.

After six pieces for 'fake instruments' - implying a late Zappa-like attraction to sequencing artificial versions of natural instrument sounds, they'd be impossible to play manually. Ellis hits peak on 'American Dream For Three Pianos' and remains wickedly memorable for much of the rest of the album. There's a delightful collection of short pieces near the end, for fictional wind-up instruments. It all works on both levels - purely as great music, or still if you allow yourself to fall into his various conceits. I can't remember the final 2 tracks because I fell asleep, but he was directing himself - particularly on late track 'Toward Dust Spiral Section' to close in a cool , focused way.

This scene has always produced as great work around the edges than in the middle. I would argue the best records involving Polly Harvey are collaborations Dance Hall AT Louse Point and the earlier, Automatic Dlamini record From A Diva To A Diver. Similarly, this album is equal to, maybe more interesting than, any major label stuff Ellis has been involved with. With Radiohead stumbling around in the same field, Ellis comes across as a veteran and 'Music For The Home' is vital in both senses of the word..

Chris Thorpe-Tracey © Chris Thorpe-Tracey

 

Review: OtherMusic.com Date: 2000
Music For The Home

Ellis, a current collaborator with PJ Harvey, reveals subtle wonders in his solo recordings from 1994 to 1999. And they're not at all what one might expect from Leaf, one of the best electronic music labels in the U.K. Ellis' fondnesses, or what appears to be his fondness, are solidly in the Varese('Poeme Electronique') or Ligeti ('Poeme Symphonique f.100 Metronome') school of pensive, nearly trapped compositions of complete control masquerading as chance. His tangling of modern classical musics are all about inconsistency, various kinds: in texture, rhythm, motion. Ellis uses keyboard instruments: open piano strings, twinkling glokenspiel, veiled accordian, harpsichord that trickles like a drippy faucet, vibrating organ notes held so long and clearly they sound open and flute-like, a typewriter, and maybe a pipe organ in there, somewhere. He then stretches and squishes these together and apart like a big sticky popcorn ball, or like Terry Riley's minimalism sped up 10 times. Each track leaves unfinished, open-ended, he'll build escalating oscillations, tinkly whirrings, drawn-out sirens, and cut them where you least expect it. A fascinating, raw work, one that should appeal to electronic music fans and 20th century classicists alike.

RE © Othermusic.com

 

Review: Amazon.co.uk
Music For The Home

The obscure yet utterly vital release this week comes from Rob Ellis. He's currently riding high in both English and American charts as a major collaborator on the new PJ Harvey album. And in fact he's been a principle hometown member of Polly's gang since the early days. So ever since his role there became a day-job of sorts, the man's been recording his own cinematic neo-classical instruments on the side and hoarding them for just this kind of a rainy day.

'Music For The Home' is a brilliant collection of brief, glissando-riddles pieces. One moment it's a slightly hissing atmospheric noise , then suddenly you're deep in avant jazz territory, while frantic piano scales or vibrophone runs charge all over the place. Effortlessly dynamic, with melodies popping up at the most awkward moment, this collection has immense clarity throughout.

And that's despite being collected together from recordings made over a five-year period.

After six pieces for 'fake instruments' - implying a late Zappa-like attraction to sequencing artificial versions of natural instrument sounds, they'd be impossible to play manually. Ellis hits peak on 'American Dream For Three Pianos' and remains wickedly memorable for much of the rest of the album. There's a delightful collection of short pieces near the end, for fictional wind-up instruments. It all works on both levels - purely as great music, or still if you allow yourself to fall into his various conceits. I can't remember the final 2 tracks because I fell asleep, but he was directing himself - particularly on late track 'Toward Dust Spiral Section' to close in a cool , focused way.

This scene has always produced as great work around the edges than in the middle. I would argue the best records involving Polly Harvey are collaborations Dance Hall AT Louse Point and the earlier, Automatic Dlamini record From A Diva To A Diver. Similarly, this album is equal to, maybe more interesting than, any major label stuff Ellis has been involved with. With Radiohead stumbling around in the same field, Ellis comes across as a veteran and 'Music For The Home' is vital in both senses of the word..

Chris Thorpe-Tracey © Chris Thorpe-Tracey