Reviews



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Artist: Cucina Povera
Title: Tyyni
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Night School Records
On the second Cucina Povera album, the Finnish-born sound artist also known as Maria Rossi showcases her plaintive, richly textured, partially-fragile vocal performance. Supremely slow, lullaby-like lyrical melodies play out at a sometimes glacial pace, as calm, expansive and beautiful as Finnish snow.

But what makes this release much more interesting is the framing of that steady vocal in a decidedly variable electronic environment which, across the eight tracks, expresses a variety of dynamics ranging from complimentary calm through to sharp tension and disorientation. Opener “Salvia Salvatrix” begins with a (slightly misleading) brooding electronica build that’s rough and earthy, and this relentless distorted line aggressively competes for space in the foreground of the track. “Polyton Nurkka” runs along a slightly guitar-like distorted synth pattern that feels like an echo of post-rock, while “Jolkottelureitti” paints slowly over a rising synth arpeggio that seems to have been orphaned from some synthwave.

It’s not all drama though. The subtle layering in “Varjokuvatanssi” forms a ballad that’s pure of heart and of tone, a sorrowful stretch of a yoik tradition across a picturesque sonic landscape. The juxtaposition are sometimes odd, and not conflict-driven- such as the curious play of crashing wave sounds with 90’s Trance Europe Express-era high electronica squeaks that end up sounding like robot seagulls.

“Anarkian Kuvajainen” pulls off the notable trick of using what sounds like mobile phone interference as an element. A sound which for a generation of people means “your audio cable is unshielded and your mobile’s about to ring” is repurposed as a very loose rhythm pattern, to interesting effect.

To return to the snow metaphor, this is a musical work of art that some may find cold or empty, but which is crisp, diverse and complex when you really start diving into it.
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Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Crossing Prior Street
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
Chloé Raunet’s previous album “Pinned” and its remix spin-offs “Pinned Up” and “Pinned Down” left a decent impression on me when I reviewed them a couple of years back, so “Crossing Prior Street”, her third album, was a welcome arrival on my desk. It continues the same vibe as the previous release, but evolves it somewhat, taking the slightly punky and lo-fi pop aesthetic and bringing in broader-sounding production values, but also a slightly more introspective and less aggressive attitude.

There’s still a poppy aesthetic thread running through the heart of it. The warm, danceable bass guitar line on “Sore Loser”, or the infectious robo-groove and strangely Grace Jones-like melody of “Steals The Dance”, are prime examples of alt-pop. It’s empowering, turns its awkwardness into a strength, and sounds not quite like anything else you’ve ever heard. The twisty analogue pads of “Flight And Pursuit” throw you straight back to the 80’s without being synthwave.

The darker and more experimental sections include “Pressure Drop”, a fairly affronting bit of beatless beat poetry set onto pitched vocal samples and noisy atmospherics. “Drop Out”’s quirky vocal treatments support the “so childish” lyric,

The press release for “Crossing Prior Street” paints a very bleak picture of Raunet’s lonely and barren transfer from Vancouver to London as a teenager, and while this and the leaping artwork might suggest you’re in for a shocking emotional ride, this never quite arrives- and frankly I’m a little grateful for that. In fact tracks like “Distraction” are, dare I say it, nothing short of cheerful.

It’s a personal affair, but not excessively so, and for anyone who likes their pop music punky, alternative and individualistic, this should be highly recommended.
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Artist: Bernard Fort
Title: Fractals / Brain Fever
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Recollections GRM
The fascinating Recollection GRM series has been revisiting lesser-known or out-of-print old electronic, electroacoustic and experimental works for a long time now, and continues to throw up some surprises. Here, they’ve grouped together two distinct works from Bernard Fort composed almost forty years apart, and the contrast is intriguing.

“Fractals”, from 1981, is a sonic collage of the unfamiliar, built from squeaking noises, found sounds, hisses, insect swarm-style buzzes and hums, mostly imbued with a live performance feel. It’s comprised of six parts, with silence inbetween, feeling rather like six vignetted scenes, but they are all originated from the same sonic ingredients, bringing a consistency. There’s a strong sense of the improvised and theatrical about it, with much ebbing and flowing- quite at odds with the mathematical precision and scaled repetition that the title ‘Fractals’ might imply. Certain points (such as 18:30-ish) sound like radiophonic workshop-style alien versions of everyday sounds like alarms and kettles. At times, such as around six minutes in, it almost borders on the comic- as though the performer is playing a balloon. (Anyone with a phobic aversion to the sounds of nails on blackboards, or balloons being rubbed, will want to steer well clear.)

“Brain Fever” from 2017 is a different beast. More specifically, ostensibly, it’s the field-recorded sound of a brainfever bird (also known as a common hawk-cuckoo), recorded in Southern India. The ambience dominates, but crucially, is not alone- it is permeated by a collection of other noises. Human sounds, ranging from choral vocalisations to gentle scrubbing sounds (possibly even brushing teeth I think) and electronic hums and whirrs that sit in an uncanny valley inbetween musical and mechanical, seem to line up and take turns to either compliment or drown the birdsong. Like “Fractals” before it, there are some lengthy near-silent parts contrasted against parts where this becomes quite chaotic and almost funny (just before the ten minute mark as an example of the latter, the twelve minute mark for the former). But when these sounds periodically fade, the birdsong keeps coming back- which feels quite telling.

It’s a pair of intriguing experimental performance pieces in a somewhat classic experimental style, with expressive and strongly humanised interpretations of everyday noise into something otherworldly. It doesn’t necessarily push any envelopes, but as these works go, it’s more dramatic and curious than average, with plenty to hook your attention into.
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Artist: Inaud1bl3
Title: Doppelsterne E.P.
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: FarmersManual GT- Generate And Test
This short review is slightly late, as Austrian Christian Haudej’s inaud1bl3 monicker is putting out a new release every time there’s a Friday 13th. This results in a fairly prolific but inconsistent release schedule, with the next output due in November.

This EP offers up six fairly short songs, all with German vocals laid over a range of different brooding electronica layouts that throw in a variety of dramatic elements, and a very guitar slams, but which at times will also play things down, with gentle stepping and trap beats and some nice smooth bass rolls.

Highlights include the surprisingly powerful “Schweben”, where the guitar cuts through at just the right moments and feels oddly empowering, and the blissful noise-chaos that’s injected into “Dein Herz Klopft An (remix)” which takes things firmly in a Venetian Snares direction.

The musical production is a few steps ahead of the vocal quality though. There’s a lo-fi and somewhat single-take vibe about the vocal that makes these tracks feel like demos. Part of this is the sleepy and introspective singing style, but it’s more than that- and in some ways it’s just as simple as the vocal needing more volume and more care in the mix. Coupled with a slight lack of hooks or strong chorus melodies, it loses a bit of punch as a result. The title track is one of the weaker tracks as a result of this.

A curious alt-pop EP with a slightly home-made feel but some really strong production qualities and a lot of character.
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Artist: Maike Zazie
Title: Seismopsychollage
Format: CD + Download
Label: 7K!
The title of pianist Maike Zazie’s album might imply earth-shaking (seismo) or mental anguish (psycho, depending on your interpretation), but neither would really be accurate. What this album offers is a form of musical intimacy that’s thoughtful and largely quite romantic. Gentle ballad songs and casual, almost-ambient tinkling is supplemented by a combination of singing, softly-spoken-word poetry (spanning German, French and some English), and a handful of atmospheric sounds.

Although described as ‘minimal’, much of the piano work is not what I’d describe as such. The rich and firmly padded chords of “Sehnsucht” fill the room. There’s a boldness and drama to “Erdbeben”, with its crashes and hammered low notes, that ensures that this album is far from flat. But it also certainly has its fair share of straight-laced romance works- most obviously the very on-the-nose “Lieben”. There’s even a handful of pieces that could legitimately be called songs- “Kind” being one.

The result is a set of portraits that fits perfectly with the illustrative style of Giulia Pex seen in the artwork and throughout the accompanying booklet. It’s the musical equivalent of soft pastel work, mild and introspective, thoughtful and largely non-confrontational, aware of the darkness but moving around it rather than through it.
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