Music Reviews



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Artist: RI:SA_sys (@)
Title: Self-Deception
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
RI:SA_sys is the Industrial rock project of Sami Jokinen of Finland. Formed by Sami and Riku S. in 2006 during their Miksen.net-era, the duo produced seven releases, none of which I've ever heard. Now it's only Jokinen on 'Self-Deception', as he takes you on a tour-de-farce through his twisted psyche on this album. Beginning with the old-school industrial "the activity", Jokinen conjures groups such as SPK, Cabaret Voltaire and early Skinny Puppy. A mechanical swamp of dreary machines inhabits "manufacture" and I'm reminded a little of John Lydon's vocal histrionics in PIL. It's a mess, but a glorious one. "Upstream" is a stuttering techno-punk number with a lot of breakbeats, twisted vocals, and frenetic energy. The creepy industrial soundscape of "in practice" seems to have what sounds like the Frankenstein monster chasing a flock of geese towards the end. "pride" starts out with a beat on what could be the crappiest drumkit ever before it kicks into a vicious hardcore punk groove, contorted and distorted with filtering. It alternates back and forth with minimal electronica and the punk aspect on verse and chorus respectively, if you could call them that. The dichotomy of the capitulation and assault is oddly compelling. Toward the end there is some processed vocal rambling and manipulated dialogue samples that may only make sense to the composer. A kind of synth ambience opens "the substitute" while Sami begins the lyrics sotto voce before emotionally wailing his words in despair. The rest is a somewhat low-key, gloomy, industrial soundscape. For a minute or so, a low rumbling is the chief element of title track "self-deception" before submerged woozy synths appear with a fragmented synth melody line on top. That's about all there is to that one. "alone pt. 2" (did I miss pt. 1? I don't recall any pt. 1 on this album) is partially reminiscent of Controlled Bleeding. The last listed track on the album is "the lie" which begins with just a repeating synth line and some distant bells in the background before it launches into a messy guitar-drum-bass assault over the top. That stops and the aforementioned synth line and bells play on while Jokinen emotes vocally in varying shades of intensity building up to the chaotic climax with everything going full blast. The recording isn't stellar here but the fervor certainly is. There are two more tracks, both untitled. The first is a beatless electronic industrial soundscape. The second begins sparsely with a little piano but semi-tribal drums move in and then it builds into a stomping maxi-minimal post-rock instrumental of controlled chaos. Another piano break backed with some feedbackish ambience, then the drums return and it's back to the full-blown instrumental. Once more the piano returns, then it's all over. Hmmm...not sure what to make of all this. No doubt there's talent here, even if 'Self-Deception' is scattershot and and a bit low-fi. I sense this is somewhat intentional, and a byproduct of the tortured artist searching for meaning in a world that makes no sense. You may not share RI:SA_sys's vision completely, but the music hits enough nerves to get your attention. CD is limited to only 100 copies
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Artist: It's A Synth (@)
Title: Curiosity
Format: CD
Label: Target Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems as though there's been a lot of synthpop coming out of Scandinavia lately, so it's not surprising to find that It's A Synth is from Copenhagen, Denmark. They're a duo consisting of Andreas Fog-Petersen -what else but synths! and Casper Clemmensen - vocals. While this isn't their first foray into music, 'Curiosity' is their first official release, and WOW!, is it ever a doozy. Right from the get-go these guys draw you in with "Bring It On," a medium slow neo-psychedelic synth stew that latches on to your psyche and won't let go. "...I will always find a way to get to you and numb your senses, Feeling so underrated, they..never will speak the truth...it's underestimated...yeah, they all dismiss you..." It's a bit dark, but not typical of this album. Casper's vocals are perfect for this kind of thing. "Endless Endeavor" peps it up for the dancefloor and Casper employs a little vocoder assist for this tune. Now the pop portion of this synth band kicks into high gear and drills directly into that happy portion of your brain and implants their infectious hooks. Unless you really hate synthpop, they've got you. And so it continues with the anthemic future-poppy "Almost". I can picture a huge crowd waving their hands in unison in time with the beat. These guys have lucked on to the magic formula that most synthpop bands strive for, namely to create music that you just can't get out of your head. And the weird thing is, it's so bloody simple. Fog-Petersen's synthwork is very good, but not ground-breaking. (Is there any more ground to break in this genre?) Clemmensen has the knack for writing melodies that are uber-appealing. "The Last Cell" isn't the greatest track on the album, but lots of synthpop bands would be satisfied to come up with something as good as this. Even when the band doesn't seem to be trying hard, as on "Pen to Paper", where the hook has only the words "there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason...ahhhh" it will melodically bubble up in your brain long after you've heard the song. I thought after this they might be spent, but no; wrong on that account. Blam, blam...two more infectious tracks - "Somehow" and "Piece of Me". After that "Steps" attemps the same formula, but isn't as compelling as anything that preceded it. "Moving" is much better with an old-school psychedelic chorus - "How will I find you?" repeated anon. The last track, "Spirit" is a bit heavy-handed with it's pounding staccato beats and really only serves to sum things up in a grand finale. As far as tunesmithing goes, It's A Synth makes bands on the order of Fischerspooner sound lame, and that's no small feat. I have heard the future of synthpop, and definitely, It's A Synth.
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Artist: Deison & Uggeri
Title: In the Other House
Format: 12"
Label: Final Muzik (@)
Recorded in two years and born from a collaboration between Cristiano Deison and Matteo Uggeri (who's also active with Grey Sparkle In Grey), "In The Other House" is an album which I approached to in a difficult way. I'm not keen on isolationist atmospheres made of drones and manipulated sounds which sometimes sound like you're finding them there by chance, so sometimes I missed the point of what I was listening to. Musically we have sounds that Uggeri "stolen" (violin samples to Franz Krostopovic, piano samples to Agostino Brambilla, guitar samples to Alberto Carozzi, bass samples to Cristiano Lupo, trombone to Stella Riva and saw to Piergiorgio Storti), while Deison added his drones and treated noises creating, in that way, something which is more like a sound installation than else. The key to understand these recordings is into the title and into Francesca Mele's photographs used for the cover: we have a house, but even if the house is the place where we rest and we try to found ourselves on a daily basis, the house could be also the worst place to come back to. On the cover we have a woman looking to a man's dead body and we can feel that there's no pain but, somehow, that was the consequence of a slow death. Maybe, a daily and deadly one. On the titles, every room is associated to a situation/feeling and we can understand what is going on. "Worried Stagnation (Bedroom)", "Micro Drama (Kitchen) or " So Detached (Dining Room And Terrace) " are titles that can give you an exact description of what we'd try to avoid and that sometimes we aren't able to and the minimal almost static sounds are reinforcing that terrible feeling. Available on vinyl and CD, the album born from the collaboration of five labels: Final Muzik , Old Bicycle Records , Oak , Loud and Grey Sparkle. You can check it here https://deison.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-other-house
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Artist: AAAA
Title: Shiva Watts
Format: 12"
Label: Antime (@)
Rated: *****
It doesn't really matters the circumstances that "Voyager II", "SH Crush", "VCO mode" or the awesome title-track "Shiva Watts" could resemble some stuff by Richard James's acid techno act AFX as well as other EDM tunes of the late 90ies and similarly "Blackfish" could vaguely remind of some EBM outputs (even if a friend of mine thought it was a remix of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" by Gridlok!), "Vocall 300" could be closer to some vocal daydreaming electro-hop that used to shake many headphones in the second half of the last decade, "Domo Geodesico" could lay in between contemporary Berlin electronics and 70'ies progressive electronic music - very interesting matching, indeed! -, "Pet Grief" could be confused as the remix of some Depeche Mode's unreleased melody by Beefcake or Proem, "Class of 1999" could sound like a robotic romance by Royksopp, which seems to get counterbalanced by the more lukeworm and softier sounds of "Bad Hair Day" and tracks like "Mixtape Alpha Dials" and other interplays could recall some clips by Boards OF Canada to some attentive listeners. Similarites are sometimes unavoidable, but the debut album by AAAA - a moniker, which sounds like a new format of batteries for electronic devices! -, the alias of Gabo Barranco, a Paris-born producer who raised in the suburbs of Mexico City, melts all these possible influences in a so roughly funny way that similaties become something to brag about! Previously released by Mexican imprint Maligna, Antime's founder Martin Steer thankfully decided to import it for the pleasure of Old Continent's listeners. Wise choice!
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Artist: HenriFernand
Title: The More I Learn
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Future Relics (@)
Rated: *****
The man behind HenriFernad is Ludovic Bordas, an "Has-Been" of the 90ies electro-trance French scene as it was one of the secret recipes of "Pills" alongside Anthony Sandor, whose debut album "Foundation" is still considered a masterpiece of that scene by many nostalgic lovers of those sonorities. Pills keeps on existing as a one-man band as Ludovic left it just before the release of their second album "Electrocaine" - it seems that divergent views related to artistic direction of this album caused the breaking of the artistic marriage between Bordas and Sandor - after having shaken French scene - they also performed at the very first public rave party in France alongside big names like 808 State, William Orbit and Underground Resistance - and his occasional appearances on some dance releases don't give the possibility to trace what he did after Pills experience. The sound that he explores on this release by a couple of nice tracks, a somewhat gloomy vocal electro-pop (the refrain "The more I learn/the less I know" got easily stored in listener's memory as well as the sneaking electro song of "I Feel Free"), could meet the tastes of followers of sonorities close to Trevor Jackson aka Playgroup and Bomb The Bass. Even if I'm not a fan of house music, Julien Lenoir remix is a quite good way of chewing original sounds, but I prefer Agaric's nine minutes lasting overstretched one by far.
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