Reviews



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Artist: Inner Vision Laboratory (@)
Title: Continuum
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
It's always nice to hear a release from a project which marks a difference from its previous ones; it's not a matter of evolution but of expectation. Especially in the dark ambient area, it's usual that a formula is repeated without any deviation but "Continuum" is somehow different from the previous efforts by Inner Vision Laboratory. Departing from the calm shores of dark ambient, Karol Skrzypiec explores new territories using a richer sound spectrum not using impressive sound effect but new musical elements from other genres.
The speech by Alan Watts, about how human unhappiness is based on the feeling that life is meaninglessness, introduces the listener towards an ambient release based on suspended slow tones and resonances. Some samples, maybe field recordings, gives the illusion of track being recorded in an open environment without the sense for special effects so common in dark ambient nowadays. The use of guitar and piano among the usual electronic equipment which is the base of the genre is the key to a link to certain minimalism which is the center of the second half of this release which seems an hint of a change of musical direction in the next releases.
In a precarious equilibrium between classic ambient, minimalism and experimental music, this new release by Karol Skrzypiec is a little gem that could be well received by most fans and demands a certain number of listening to catch all the grains hidden in an apparently canonical form. Highly recommended.
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Artist: Sinistarr (@)
Title: Everything On Time
Format: 12"
Label: Defrostatica (@)
Rated: *****
This second appearance of Detroit-based versatile drum'n'bass producer and DJ Sinistarr on Leipzig-based label Defrostatica, whose focus on more experimental side of drum'n'bass scene suits the searching paths that this interesting guy (featuring many awesome outputs on renowned labels such as Metalheadz, Renegade Hardware, C.I.A., Hospital Records, Tectonic and Alphacut), also came on a very limited (70 copies only) 180g vinyl edition, pressed on a plastic that looks like natural marble. Just four tracks, but enjoyable for the ones searching for something slightly different from known dnb sonorities. The opening track "KNS 2019" (featuring Singapore-born DJ and producer Kiat) heavily resembles the first outputs by New Zealand DNB heroes The Upbeats since its menacing intro, even if there are no connections between them and Sinistarr as far as I know - their paths maybe crossed only in the playlist of many djs -. The notes of sci-fi jasmine on the following "Emo", made with Icelandic polyhedral producer Agzilla, can trap some listeners, as well as the naive gracefulness of "Garden", whose blossoming vocals by Morgan Neimans can vaguely resemble the childish falsetto of Allison Shaw, and the narcotized tune of "Torpor" (really amazing the muffled bass defibrillators over the track, as they were intended to revive the track). The original version of KNS comes as a (downloadable if you opt for the vinyl version) bonus as well.
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Artist: Basic Biology (@)
Title: Melting Patterns
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Free Love Digi
Rated: *****
Another intelligent shot by Quentin Hiatus' imprint Free Love Digi, which recently deployed the debut album by Basic Biology, the bicephalous creature by Thomas Brinson aka Thomas B (debuting as producer after more than 20 years on decks mixing drum'n'bass) and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Cassidy, propitiated by their common friend GHAST. Speaking in general they seem to liquefy mid-tempo and dubstep in order to forge a more emotional and soulful declension of what is commonly referred as 'liquid' in drum'n'bass jargon. Such a sonic research unveils unexpected pearls during its listening, such as the initial title track "Melting Patterns", one of the five songs where Matthew Cassidy brings his charmingly androgynous over a VT like arpeggio, smelling of Strange Things's Prophet 5-driven OST, the elegant sub dermal tension of "Sleeve" (Cassidy on mic again) or the nicely hopped "Dust" (featuring Megan McKay this time on the microphone... the fastest track of this debut album together with the bleached synth patterns of "Blue"). The stage of electronic mainstream music, when interrupted and glitchy rhythmical patterns were quite popular - the one when musicians like Funckarma, Proem or Funkstorung were riding the wave -, often comes to mind particularly while listening to the last episodes of this album, including the sweet closure of "Subtle", "Non Contempt" or "Let Me Be" (featuring another skilled guest like Blake Brady for vocal parts). Deserving a check.
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Artist: Jean-Philippe Gross
Title: Curling
Format: CD + Download
Label: EICH
As an adjunct to his ‘proper’ new album “Reflex”, Jean-Philippe Gross has offered up a distinctly odd 22-minute track “Curling”. Over a steady and regular drone tone, the only element that really differentiates this from just being late-night sports TV found sound, it’s the sound of a series of curling teams discussing their shots, variously in English and what I think is either German or Dutch. The sound of scratching brushes and impacting picks (if they’re called pucks?) adds the under-texture, with occasional crowd appreciation offering a kind of structure. It’s a raw juxtaposition between the vocal tension- which at times turns into real shouting- and the low-level bass drone underneath.

The use of lengthy vocal samples reminds me of the first CNSNNT release, but without the techno underpinning. But ultimately this becomes something of an acquired taste. As a UK resident the equivalent I’d compare it to is like listening to snooker with your eyes closed- without a visual guide to what’s happening, or a commentary, it’s an exercise in tension without context- which I think is what Jean-Philippe Gross is aiming at.

Like dropping into some random sport on late-night TV because you can’t sleep, 20 minutes is almost long enough to feel engaged even if you’ve never watched the sport ever before. I find myself beginning to relate to these players- one of whom seems to be called Caitlin- and wondering when this match was, and who won. But it seems I’ll never know, which is oddly frustrating.

It’s rare that any piece can make you feel so relaxed and so tense at the same time. A curious listening experience, if not entirely an enjoyable one.
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Artist: Gonzo
Title: Ruído(s)
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Discrepant
“Ruído(s)” is pitched as a farewell album from an artist purportedly retiring from music. This short 13-track collection blending thickly layered and densely mixed found sounds with a selection of both rhythmic and ambient synth work is, I’m told, a final goodbye and flourish, for reasons undisclosed.

At points it seems thickly emotive, with tracks like “Vinha Dalho” drawing on what seem like Portugeuse market sounds for something that manages to feel both nostalgic and unfamiliar at the same time. The pounding drum that underpins “São João XXX” channels traditional music sounds into a form of home-made acoustic techno, while “En(fado)” as the title suggests works in an acoustic guitar, but weirdly decorated with radio-like spoken word samples and bell noises. It’s as though Gonzo is attempting to disassemble traditional music and then rebuild it in as unrecognisable a structure as possible.

Many of the pieces are more like sonic sketches than fully realised works, with only five tracks that tip over the three minute mark. For fear of dating myself with old comparisons, “Cantiga Parva” sounds like the political sampling attitude of Negativland crashed against the granular retriggering franticness of Bassnectar, while “Brilhante Cortejo”’s old-time song treatment has a tongue-in-cheek, almost Wagon Christ vibe.

Exceptions include the brooding echo-heavy “A Fuga Dos Grilos” and the curiously subversive “Arca Eulogia”.

It’s one of the most character-filled sonic collages I’ve heard in a long time, really exuding the Portuguese influence and reveling in the musical traditions whilst at the same time cutting them into pieces and exposing a dark underbelly on each of them. Farewell for now Gonzo, if this really is goodbye; there’s obviously a pensive, reflective tone at play here, but there’s also hints of a sense of fun that make me hope that the alias may return for more in the future.
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