Music Reviews



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Artist: Friends of Alice Ivy (@)
Title: The Golden Cage and its Mirrored Maze
Format: CD
Label: Elysium Sounds
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with these artists, but evidently this Australian duo has been part of the scene for a long time, as part of the 1990's darkwave band Ostia. Surrounding the core of Amps and Kylie are a host of guest musicians from such other notable Australian bands as Ikon (Clifford Ennis) and Eden (Adam Calaitzis), as well as orchestral harpist Megan Reeve, cellists Zora Barisic and Emily Williams, and classical soprano Frances Catherine Brüggener. Add lyrical inspirations ranging from Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to astronomer Carl Sagan, and this promises to be an interesting disc. As the press release explains, 'The emotional heart of the album is a return to beauty and a nostalgic sense of wonder.' So let's get to the music. When I first put the disc in the player, I had to check to see if this was put out by Projekt or some similar label. This reminds me a lot of old Love Spirals Downward ('Ardor') or Faith and Disease, with its beautiful female vocals and delicate instrumentation. At other times it takes on a medieval vibe reminiscent of Cold Meat Industry act Arcana (e.g., 'Song of Lyra'). If Hyperium Records were still around to put out their Heavenly Voices compilations, Friends of Alice Ivy would fit right in. But this is not just worth checking out for nostalgia; this is excellent in its own right today. This is simply beautiful and it's a shame that there isn't more music like this today. Well done. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.
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Artist: Karoline Leblanc and Paulo J Ferreira Lopes
Title: Hypnagogic Cartography I
Format: CD
Label: Atrito-Afeito (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Paulo J Ferreira Lopes's 'Feeze' and enjoyed it, so I was interested to see how he would operate with another artist. With this album, Karoline Leblanc plays Alesis Micron and Dave Smith Morpho x4 synth, along with piano for good measure, while Paulo J Ferreira Lopes mixes and edits. 'Overture' starts things off with some noisy, staticy drone that reveals multiple layers when listening to it through headphones. Next up we have 'Dichotomic Syntony,' which keeps the drone going until it kicks in to some pounding piano straight out of an old black and white suspense film. 'American Frontier' shifts gears slightly with a more cut-up feel before sliding into bass drone punctuated by analog beeps and noise. Finally we get to 'Reminiscence - Rätsel Rock - Windward Vagary ' Ubiquity,' which, at almost 27 minutes, has plenty of time to fit into four parts and shifts back and forth between stripped down analog waves over whistling electronics, noisy alarm bells and distortion, and spacey ambient. Overall these are well constructed compositions, but they're a bit too abstract for my taste. For lack of a better term, they require a lot of attention to the microscopic elements of the tracks. As such, I found the drone elements to be a bit dull at times. I recognize that there is a lot going on there if I listened for it, but it just wasn't interesting enough for me to go looking for it. On the other hand, the noisy elements were engaging and enjoyable. This album weighs in at 44 minutes and is limited to 100 copies.
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Artist: Isolator (@)
Title: Culture & Principal of Anti-Human Exaltation
Format: CD
Label: Black Plagve Productions (@)
Rated: *****
Let's begin with the label's description, shall we? 'There's dark, and then there's what Isolator create ' an abyssal black hole fashioned from pure negativity and concentrated misanthropy, the sounds unraveling like a time lapse film of slow decay and rot, where cascading, shapeless drones meet charred orchestral swells, disembodied voices, ritual undertones, and crushing, blown out disharmonics, all slathered and smeared into a mass of roiling darkness.' This would sound pretty bold coming from some other labels, but Malignant knows a thing or two about dark, heavy music, and this is heavy stuff. Cinematic dark ambient that doesn't try to be scary so much as succeeds in doing so without the heavy handed tactics seen in other artists (no cheesy horror movie samples here). Just bleak compositions that envelop you like saran wrap and threaten to suffocate you. At times it is actually quite beautiful. In some places there is heavy drone and a bit of dissonance, providing an intense sense of pressure ' as if the forces of the entire galaxy were bearing down on you ('Cast Into Blood'). In other places the noise comes to the forefront with high pitched squeals and the sounds of tectonic plates crashing into each other ('Your Heaven Will Writhe Within The Chaos Of My Hell'). This is dark and sinister ' not exactly something for an evening of relaxation and reading by the fire. Even the tracks that are sedate by comparison (e.g., 'Into The Blood Of Our Kingdom') still maintain a sense of ominous dread. If you like your dark ambient incredibly dark, this is one to pick up. This album weighs in at around 57 minutes and is limited to 500 copies.
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Artist: Neu Gestalt (@)
Title: Inside the Rain Chamber
Format: CD
Label: Alex Tronic Records (@)
Neu Gestalt is the work of Scottish musician Les Scott. In reading the liner notes, we find that the album was inspired by Japanese language and the film Blade Runner. Sounds like a good time so far, so let's get to the music. 'Voyager' kicks it off with some smooth synth and snippets of cut up sound source that reminded me of Art of Noise. Indeed, as I listened to the album I became convinced that I could probably pass this off as a new Art of Noise disc, so heavy seemed the influence. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the similarity is there, at least for me. Some of the standout tracks were 'Luminance,' with bits of analog noises and pitch shifting over the mellow synth and 'Tokyo Tipping Point,' with its vocal snippets and odd melodies. Nothing here that really pushes the envelope, but overall this is some pleasant listening. This album weighs in at around 44 minutes.
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Artist: Sist En 343 (@)
Title: J20-20
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Debila (@)
Rated: *****
I really like 3' CDs. They give you a short taste of music that has to stand as a unified whole. You can't really try out too many ideas in 20 minutes or less. This offering from the Slovenian duo Sist En 343 is a great example of quickly getting down to business. As the cacophony fades in, you get a sense of what you are after: harsh, unrelenting noise. Rumbling low end noise, a circuit bent toy keyboard, computer noise from a 2600 baud modem, and the recorder that you used to play in 4th grade all thrown together into a blender. As it slowly fades away, you are aware of just how loud it was for a while. Good stuff for the harsh noise set. This album weighs in at 15:43 minutes and is limited to 100 copies.
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