Music Reviews



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Artist: Pinkcourtesyphone
Title: A Ravishment of Mirror
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This album is full of warm ambient tones that surround the listener, yet fall short of providing a lush atmospheric space. Instead, there is a pink noise that leaves one feeling unsettlingly enveloped by emptiness like a broken rain sound machine. According to the artist's statement, the album is supposed to be conceptually wrapped up in the plastic world that is Los Angele. Like a Tati film, its grand, ethereal criticism of the modern 'Hollywood' decadence is not at all lacking in humor. There is a sort of irony involved - like a New Age guru enticing the listener into meditation over reasonably priced self-help DVDs. This is not an album for a relaxing background soundtrack but rather an interesting experiment in binaural noise and concept.
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Artist: Bruno Bavota
Title: La casa sulla luna
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Upon first listen, Bavota's simplistic chord progressions and melodies appear to be rather trite and repetitive. This may be so ' however, upon closer look this simplicity is not lost on the listener who longs not only for something merely digestible but, also finds the moody environment of La casa sulla luna a meditative one. Even the album artwork is playfully stylized as if it were drawn directly from a children's bedtime tale. With each depression of the piano's damper pedal, one is drawn into the feeling of the performer - hushed tones and swelling melodies surround. This is precisely why I am loath to label this 'neo-classical' because its roots are firmly embedded in the Romantic tradition of the likes of Liszt ' whose own use of melody, at times, is that of simplicity wrapped in the grandeur of large tonal clusters. There are no deceptive cadences here and one can assume an entire piece's progression with confident assurance. The Italians have always possessed a nature of unabashed celebration of pure aesthetic experience without the weightiness of conceptuality as a burdening factor. While the notion of 'endless melody' is embraced here, this is no grand Germanic Gesamtkunstwerk - form and content merge with the playfulness of a Rossini. The album leaves just as it entered: without pretentious posturing of self-explanatory affect. It is as if Bavota has let his self flow freely, from feeling to fingers, bypassing 'heady' conceptual dwellings altogether.
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Artist: Arturas Bumšteinas (@)
Title: Epiloghi
Format: CD
Label: Unsounds (@)
Rated: *****
Many zealous composers and academics delving into aesthetics, composition and musical history know that Renaissance and Baroque music anticipated many elements of contemporary music that the most of people is not able even to imagine down pat. That's just one reason why this interesting bridge that esteemed Lithuanian composer and sound artist Arturas Bumsteinas established between that period and the dawn of noise music and bruitisme by composing six possible epilogues for Jacopo Peri's lost opera "Dafne" and by matching the six primary passions (desire, love, hate, sadness, joy and wonder) that Descartes distingued in his notorious philosophical treatise "Passions of the Soul" with groups of noise-sound categories according to the interesting taxonomy that Italian futurist painter and composer Luigi Russolo, one of the forerunners of noise music, proposed on his manifesto "The Art of Noises" in 1913 seems to be an attempt of linking two key moments of music history by gliding through that hip-like label of so-called retro-futurism. The strategy that Arturas followed in order to render this metacultural and somehow "spiritual" connection is really amazing as he combined the sound of the progenitors of Russolo's Intonarumori, those Baroque noise-making machines, which were used in theater performances to illustrate mainly natural phenomena such as thunder, wind, rain, storm and so on, that Artusas recorded in several historical European theaters, with some instrumental parts, which come from different melodic and harmonic materials he grabbed from a selection of almost two hundred popular melodies from the 16th to the 21st century, while "Zang Tumb Tumb", the poem by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti which gives name to this amazing sound work, has only been explicitly quoted on "Epilogue 2. Hate - Noises Obtained by Beating on Wood". Besides "Epiloghi. Six Ways of Saying Zangtumbtumb", the release includes "Night on the Sailship", another remarkable assay of concrete music, where theater noise machines, stage prop and coulisse machinery have been used to render a sort of nocturnal soundtrack from an old galleon. I cannot but admire Artuars' figments of imagination.
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Artist: Lahka Muza (@)
Title: Byt Tvojim Zrkadlom (To Be Your Mirror)
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Slovakian darkwave band Ľahká Múza has been around a long, long time, going all the way back to 1984, and releases as far back 1989. 'Byť Tvojím Zrkadlom' ('To Be Your Mirror') is now their 8th album, this one self-released on their own EXcentriX Records label. If you're American, you probably never heard, or heard of them. If you're from Europe, chances are you have, and know what an iconic group this is. The core of Ľahká Múza is Gudrun Snake (vocals) and 677 (guitars). Their sound could be described as a cross between earliest Dead Can Dance and Siouxsie & the Banshees, though sounding specifically like neither. Gudrun has the power of Lisa Gerrard's vocals, but with a more shamanistic, witchy twist, and 677 makes use of that Banshee signature flanged guitar sound, alternately with heavy sustained fuzzy distortion. This became the hallmark sound of many '90's goth groups in this vein, but Ľahká Múza has it down to a tee. There is nothing 'pop' about the music of Ľahká Múza; it is dark, ritualistic, mysterious and oh so foreign to Western ears, yet somehow familiar. All songs are sung by Gudrun in the Slovak language, and sometimes just sounds more than words. This has a very dramatic effect, even if you don't know what she's singing about, which for those unfamiliar with the language (most of us) can be very compelling. (Hey, Gerrard's vocals in DCD often weren't decipherable, but no less compelling.)
Although there are drums and percussion, 'To Be Your Mirror' isn't in any way typical dark dance floor fodder. For one, the percussion (presumably drum machine) often carries a martial beat in one form or another. Reverb swathes the vocals and guitar, and there is an often present bass drone in the background. Gudrun's voice often has an operatic quality; in fact, at times she sounds like two different singers ' the operatic diva, and the witchy evil sorceress. Her vocals soar to uncanny heights, then swoop down low like a raptor after its prey. The music is heavy and thick with atmosphere, and though you may swear you've heard something like this before, you really haven't. 'To Be Your Mirror' maintains its austerity throughout, never deviating from the unworldly aura it presents. Quite uncompromising is Ľahká Múza, and live Gudrun presents herself as a stark fetish figure, the dominatrix supreme. This isn't what I call casual listening; it literally demands your attention. There are some keyboards here and there (most notably on final track 'Symmetry') but the music is primarily guitar-based, and none the worse for it. Definitely worth seeking out, 'To Be Your Mirror' seems as a refinement of the band's previous musical efforts. (You'd probably have to order the CD directly from Ľahká Múza on their website because I don't think their distribution extends to the U.S. yet.) Gudrun and 667 also have a side project called Hieros Gamos (please, please send me the CD to review), the main difference being that the music is more keyboard/synth and fetish oriented, but no less austere. (A little like Die Form in a way.) I only wish they could perform in the U.S., for if they did they would certainly enthrall the lovers of dark music among us.
Apr 15 2014
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Artist: Nahtaivel (@)
Title: Pon Farr
Format: CD
Label: Wave Records (@)
Rated: *****
Scary dude from Brazil Fernando Vicente basically IS Nahtaivel, and 'Pon Farr' appears to be Nahtaivel's fourth album, the earliest going back to 2002. It's a dark electro-industrial kind of thing, not far removed from the likes of Suicide Commando, Combichrist, Diverje, etc., but possibly with a little more diversity. Speaking of Diverje, Tommy T Rapisardi guests on vocals for the opening track, 'Hate', and also bonus track 'Murder in My Eyes' which is more of less a remix of 'Hate'. Rapisardi is also responsible for the lyrics on these. If you're a Diverje fan you have a good idea what you're in for. 'Pon Farr' is has its fair share of dark dancefloor stompers, well done with squinky and muscular sequenced synths, four-on-the-floor beats, and processed to the hilt vocals, often employing vocoder. Some of the things I really like about this album include the spooky theremin synth sound used on 'The Invention of Lying' and 'Be Productive'; the extra added percussive sounds in 'The Wildflower/The Fly'; the atypical and somewhat progressive 'The Short Story of Asami ' The Gravure Idol'; and the even more atypical instrumental 'Christie's Dream' with anthemic synth horns. You'll also find the obligatory movie dialogue samples interspersed throughout, but mercifully they are not overused and fit the music. The physical CD also contains 3 bonus tracks ' two remixes of 'The Invention of Lying', one Old School, and the other Club Mix with guest spoken vocals by Apostle Niwt of Pecadores. I don't think this song needed two remixes, but'¦whatever. Over all, it's a pretty good effort with interesting interplay in the synth sounds/programming. Nahtaivel has a new album coming out in May ('Epicus Doomicus Electronicus') which promises to be very different from this release, available on digital only, due to budgetary constraints. I'd pick up the physical 'Pon Farr' CD if I were you; the last of a dying breed, and also you get the extra tracks.
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