Music Reviews



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Artist: Katharina Ernst
Title: Extrametric
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
This is a drummer’s album- a revelry of rhythm and percussive sound, perfect time and attitude. It’s a compact 34-minute collection of dominant drumming, with a tribal and sometimes quite raw vibrancy but rounded off with judicious use of effects.

The seven tracks are numbered rather than named. The rumbling bass drone and gradual introduction of elements on the first track gives it the flavour of an EBM album intro, the time signature change just under three minutes in reminding me of Sub Focus, before the extra complexity blended with beefiness in the second track initially recalls the harder side of 90’s trip hop and late-era 808 State before heading off into much jazzier exercises.

As it progresses, it gets a bit more experimental and at times introspective. Track five is a more drone-based offering opening with long cymbal rolls and a gradually unfolding noise wall that eventually opens up into a sparse and continually arhythmic atmosphere, while track seven is a slow, faintly funky workout that loops back to trip-hop.

Never guilty of showing off, this is a skillful but restrained set of embellished drum works that finds that rare balance between being impressive and being really enjoyable.
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Artist: Polticical Ritual (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ambiances Magnetiques (@)
Rated: *****
This was one heck of an album to track down the details for, which could have been solved simply by the inclusion of a one-sheet. If there was one it must have gotten lost en-route to me from Chain D.L.K. central, and just about everything about this album and its producers had to be sourced off the Internet. Have you ever tried Googling "Political Ritual" ? Just use your imagination as the results you'll get in this day and age. Fortunately, the artists, Félix-Antoine Morin & Maxime Corbeil-Perron, put their names on the album, but both being French-Canadian, much of the info about them and Political Ritual (the name of the project is also the album title) is in French. According to Morin and Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual build their music in architectural and woven layers of harmony and polarity, arranging ethereal drone next to hard edged buzz or cinematic movements alongside pummeling beats. With live performance as their backdrop, Félix-Antoine Morin and Maxime Corbeil-Perron took to the studio in 2014 for their first album. Corbeil-Perron is a multidisciplinary artist who has created film and video work and interactive installations shown at international events and festivals, as well as making electro-acoustic and mixed-media music as Le Pélican Noir and solo – he also started a PhD at the Université de Montréal in fall 2015. A visual artist as well as an electro-acoustic composer, Morin works solo and collaborates with contemporary choreographers, videographers and several other musicians, finding inspiration for his poetic creations in the processual components of traditional and sacred music. Pushing the boundaries of abstraction, these expert improvisors in analog modular and digital synthesis incorporate invented wind instruments, traditional Balinese percussion, field recordings and digital signal processing into their compositions, intent on shaping a transcendent listening experience.

Okay, that's all well and good, but what does this album sound like? The album is comprised of two long pieces - "Ceremonie" (20:07) and "Projection cathodique" (21:35). While ambient in nature, this isn't a passive kind of ambient, but a very active, organic and highly charged sort of ambient. "Ceremonie" is full of crackling electronics and uneasy drones of indeterminate machinery. Over time it morphs into quasi-psychedelic Klaus Schulze territory before veering out into more experimental terrain. The oscillations employed are quite unsettling and throughout its droney demeanor, jarring events occur with some frequency in the background. Just when things seem to be humming along nicely the bottom drops out and the listener is transported to an alien construction site on some God-forsaken planet, replete with the distortion of heavy equipment until it grinds to a sudden halt.

"Projection cathodique" begins with a less forceful demeanor, the twinkling of crystalline high frequency particles over melodic sonorous low tones and held together with hollowish metallic drone substances. The latter sonority intensifies and echoes off in a feedback loop which morphs in myriad directions overtaking all other sonics present. There is a somewhat natural evolution to the unfolding of this piece that you just have to hear as any description fails to do it justice. Let's just say it gets pretty dense as sonic layers build on top of each other. By its conclusion there is a return to some of the elements that began this piece and so the cycle is complete.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think a whole lot of the album on the first go-round, but after repeated plays the subtleties were revealed and the brilliance of the work became evident. That it was primarily released as a limited edition vinyl LP (500 copies, also available as a digital download) makes it an even more vital purchase.
Oct 17 2018
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Artist: Arca
Title: Forces
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Ici d’ailleurs/Mind Travels
Joan Cambon and Sylvian Chauveau’s long-standing collaboration has reached its fifth album. An intimate and at times quite minimalist collection of small synth sounds, complex rhythm programming, melodic pads and atmospherics, this is rich cultured electronica with a heartfelt tone.

There are some perkier tracks, like “Paul Favre-Miville” and the very well-formed “Bayan Hout” that have an almost playful energy that at times slightly undermines the album’s very earnest themes of conflict and displacement. These are muddled in with more atmospheric and earnest pieces like “Ossama Mohammed”.

“Anonymous Nigerian Refugee” is a rare vocal track, sampling the titular figure talking under clear duress about his predicament in the album’s only overtly political moment, which ends up also being a highlight.

It’s a pleasant and well-cooked sonic meal with some lovely textures in it, and while I don’t expect it to top too many people’s ‘best of the year’ lists on account of a fairly muted and modest character, it is an example of balanced and premium electronica done very well.
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Artist: Geir Sundstøl
Title: Brødløs
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
“Ambient goes country” is the headline of the blurb promoting that release, but that’s maybe a little bit misleading. I’d suggest that this is country music that’s going on a tentative electronic journey, as pedal steel, acoustic bass and twangy banjo remain firmly at the core, mapping out brooding and sometimes slightly Americana and bluesy patterns, but with some unusual production and atmospheric touches that twist the character a little. There’s also a breadth to the acoustic instrumentation that gives it a more cinematic and high-budget feel, with appearances from a Shankar guitar and an above-average span of percussive sounds.

It’s exemplified by tracks like “Kraag”, with its endearing melodic swagger. Final track “Waterloo” borders gently onto cheese with its plaintive trumpet leading into choral ahhhhh sounds. The two-note suspense work on “Laems”- possibly the National duolian, I have to admit I’m not sure- gives it a slight “60’s spy theme” flavour.

Imagine Ennio Morricone and Acker Bilk collaborating on a spaghetti Western set in a cold Norwegian village, and you’re somewhere near here. An unusual fusion of country and electronics with an emotively grey outlook.
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Artist: Daniela Orvin
Title: Home
Format: CD + Download
Label: Seasides On Postcards
The title and cover artwork of Daniela Orvin’s album imply a private, prosaic and personal domestic environment that we certainly hear in the Bach piano notes and ambience of the opener “Prelude”. But as the half-hour long album (arguably mini-album) unfolds, we are drawn into a more unexpected world. It’s like a soundtrack for a slow-paced sci-fi love story, where early-era Tangerine Dream-style synth work rolls gently and positively over warm textures and pads.

Highlights include the expansive “Unexpected Coincidence” and the soft arpeggios of “Spring Came Early”. The titular introspection gives us moodier pieces like “For Now” and the piano-centric “18,00 From My Balcony”.

At times it’s classical chillout music but built from synthwave-style ingredients, and it really works. The modest duration perhaps works in its favour. Orvin has been doing soundtrack work recently and on this evidence, her work should soon be in demand.
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