Music Reviews

Artist: SPUNK & Joëlle Léandre (@)
Title: Live in Molde
Format: CD
Label: +3dB Records
Rated: *****
Another wonderful release from the surprising Nordic improvisational scene immortalized one of those mixing that could only be sparkling, the collaborative performance of Spunk, the female quartet that the brilliant vocal performer Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje joined together by involving Kristin Andersen (trumpet, flutes), Lene Grenager (cello) and Hild Sofie Tafjord (French horn, electronics), and the iconic double bass player Joelle Leandre, that got held at Moldejazz Festival on July 20th 2011. The recording has been splitted in six moments: my favorite ones are the three collaborative parts, where the first sounds like a reciprocal exorcism within storms of sneaking tones, vocals which perpetually roll over moments of abstract joy, exstasy, paroxysm and rage, a double-bass which sounds like coiling around disjointed instrumental phrases, the second - one of the most amazing moment of the whole recording - renders a sort of musical tormented sleeping (heavy snoring included!) and an encore at the end of the recording, where they seem to produce sonic resin which frustrate any possible movement of each instrument, while Kristin uses her trumpet like a sort of whip against angry Furies. The sparkle of the two solo tracks by Joelle, which sound like a set of primers for a soul on fire, got counterbalanced by the solo performance by SPUNK, who seem to render the caring assuaging of the screaming wounds that Joellle lets ideally bleed. Joelle herself expressed her own admiration for the female super-group that get aside her art on the occasion of Moldejazz performance: "SPUNK is rare. As a group they have a unique strngth in the fact that all members move freely between roles as performers, improvisers and composers. SPUNK's music is poetic, responsible and free at the same time".
Artist: Melanchoholics (@)
Title: Solar Cafe
Format: CD
Label: Eibon Records (@)
Rated: *****
Melanchoholics was a trio from Dusseldorf, Germany consisting of minimal guitars, low-end bass and lo-fi electronica. Their goal was to create slow, impressive soundscapes. They began in 2001, releasing a couple of CDs, an EP and some soundtracks over their course of existence. Unfortunately, guitarist Benedikt died not long after the completion of the recording of this album, so 'Solar Cafe' is their swan song as Philip (bass) and Lutz (electronics) have chosen to carry on making music under the name Minus1One. This is the first recording I've heard from Melanchoholics, so my review is untainted by any prior exposure.

At the outset on "Rotten City Radio" you can tell it's going to be an experimental sort of thing. Some slidey, descending guitar loop, soft, reverberating explosive sounds, a sporadic dialogue sample, electronics, and stray, struck guitar notes all combine to form some kind of amorphous industrial atmosphere. "Adam Dunkel" begins as a low drone four-note piece before noisier elements creep in making for a lethargic industrial soundscape. "Paranoia Lodge" is another crawling ambient piece featuring vocals (the spoken kind) by Arthur Walser Rosar and Miss Ada. It is predominantly placid, interspersed with laconic guitar chords. Vocals are creepy and dreamy, giving the track a semi-nightmarish quality. "Hiring Beared Women" (ever heard of a more peculiar name for track?) is low rumbling ambience over which electronically processed guitar intermittently improvises. It has a slight shoegazer quality to it. Title track "Solar Cafe" sounds like it could be the opening to a Pink Floyd album that was never released...just a kind of ambience, no rock. "Presence of Absence" has the heartbeat of some primordial monster, wind, and some gentle ethereal guitar improvisation. It must have been the combination of the wind and guitar that reminded me a bit of the beginning of Pink Floyd's "One of These Days". "The End Belongs to the World" is an ambient drone piece that gets noisy for a spell a couple of times, also with some malevolent whispers. Nuclear Welfare" continues the trend of ambient-industrial soundscape interspersed with noisy elements and sparse guitar improvisation. Final track, "Minus1One", another industrial drone piece, has much more of Benedikt's guitar in it than I expected; a somewhat melodic melancholy outro with more conventional musicality on the guitar's part.

Melanchoholics have come up with a really unusual album in 'Solar Cafe', and one worth a listen or three. Minimal, yet they manage to pack a lot into it. Obviously they will not be the same without Benedikt, but it should be interesting to hear what Philip and Lutz come up with as Minus1One. Available on CD or 12" vinyl.
Artist: Red Sun Revival (@)
Title: Identities
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
'Identities' is the second full-length album by London-based gothic rock/darkwave group Red Sun Revival led by vocalist/guitarist Rob Leydon, with guitarist Matt Helm, bassist Panos Theodoropoulos, violinist/backing vocalist Christina Emery and Simon Rippin on drums. Sam Morrison guests on keyboards on one track (The Condemned, Part 1"). Not long ago I reviewed the band's interim EP, 'Embers', and while I found it to be pretty good, Leyden's voice was a bit too raspy for me, and sounded strained in places. I'm happy to say any similarity to Carl McCoy has been left miles behind down the road and Leydon's really come into his own on this album. The band is stronger, tighter, more powerful and cohesive than before. On 'Identities' Panos Theodoropoulos shares writing credits with Leydon as well, and this partnership really kicks the music up a notch or two. The lush orchestration of every number on the album makes Red Sun Revival unique in the gothic/darkwave genre, and although I'm still getting shades of An Also The Trees, it's really much different. Leydon's emotionally moving vocals and lyrics are the key to the identity of this band, and Stephen Carey's production and mix allows the band to reach its fullest potential- a skillful blend of passion and pathos wrapped in a shimmering, euphonious package with an abundance of style.

It's hard to pick a standout track on 'Identities' as they're all really good. One of my favorites though is "Fade In Time", where everything comes together just perfectly, and Christina's violin soars. "Mistakes", which appeared on the 'Embers' EP sounds as is it has
a much better mix than on the EP, although it could be my imagination. (The previous arrangement sounded a little mushy.) RSR really show how much they've grown on the tracks "The Condemned Parts, 1 & 2" treading into the prog-rocky realm of Pink Floyd, and claiming it as their own turf, with Helm's guitar leading the charge. If you're looking for a new album that will really grow on you and stand the test of time in the gothic/darkwave genre, then Red Sun Revival's 'Identities' is surely it. These folks are certainly the crème de la crème as they've poured their hearts, souls and skills into making it just so. That
"knockout" I implied the band was capable of at the end of my review of 'Embers' has surely been delivered.
Artist: Fabrizio Modenese Palumbo (@)
Title: Doropea
Format: Tape
Label: Old Bicycle Records (@)
Rated: *****
The shining glitter that have been melt in the transparent plastic of the cassette coul vaguely resemble those souvenirs, where an iconic monument of a place (the Mole Antonelliana in this case!) was put inside a sphere, which was typically filled with a liquid solution and some glitters in order to simulate the snow, and such a connection makes sense for this sonic dedication that Fabrizio Modenese Palumbo, former member of Larsen and Almagest! and collaborator of well-known musical acts like Xiu Xiu, Swans leader Michael Gira and Carla R.Bozulich as wel as one of the more original sonic artist of Italian underground scene, made for his hometown Turin. The somehow melancholic halo of the two fiftenn minutes lasting pieces, one for each side, got emphasized by the hissing of the tape describe the city at two different levels: a more ethereal and almost idealized one comes from the first one, where an upright piano, whose tones are sometimes lopsided or discordant, act like the above-described glitters into a floating and sometimes hypnotical droning stream, whose entrancing trascendence sprinkle on listener from buzzing tones from a synth, a processed guitar, an electric viola and an electric organ, which little by little wrap listeners into an icy and lukewarm hug at the same time, which I could match to the sunny days in late autumn, whose cold temperature got tempered by terse shining air. The second part of Doropea opens on the heavy snoring of someone, who maybe got asleep in a car just before a downpour, filtered by microphones and mechanical windscreen wipers, broke his sleep and could let you think that Palumbo's "description" descended to ground level, before his sounds keeps on spread over the listening space like an electrically excited gas and the gradual depletion of leakage currents after a somehow obsessive tonal crescendo that seems to have been evoked by the man who obsessively sounds like repeating, jabbering and leaisurely singing the word "tone", before his speaking got absorbed by the sonic magnetic field to the point it could resemble the way how more or less ghostly inhabitants of Twin Peaks' Black Lodge spoke in the famous final scene.
Artist: Andy Haas (@)
Title: Taballah
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
I have been receiving and reviewing Muslimgauze CDs for over two decades and when I first received this package I thought this was a new posthumous Muslimgauze CD that had just been unearthed (yeah that still happens!), until I realized it only "looked" like a Muslimgauze CD and instead it was a CD by the NYC-based experimental saxophonist Andy Haas. Then I read the liner notes and it all made sense: the CD is actually dedicated to Muslimgauze, so I felt vindicated because the graphics, lettering and art work really were made to look like that! I am unaware of the reasons why Haas dedicated the CD (other than obvious respect and admiration) to the late Muslimgauze but it was a welcome tribute to a great musician and a great writer (Ginsberg is also an inspiration for this release). Unlike pretty much any Muslimgauze release you might have heard, this one has none of his distinctive percussion sounds and loops. However it does have some bubbling structures of repeating time, mostly thanks to the taal tarang, a digital tabla drum box with a selection of raga time signatures that Haas put through effects to create the rhythm tracks he then improvised on top. With the exception of the taal tarang, "Taballah" is pretty much a solo sax release, but you would be hard pressed to come to that conclusion if you didn't read that in the liner notes. It actually sounds more like a collaborative CD in which Haas duets with an electronic musician. Playing alone with oneself is nothing new in the genre, but doing it so that it sounds like you are listening to a duo who is interacting with each other is a harder balance to achieve. Haas has done just that and has brought his unique playing of the soprano and sopranino sax to best fruition with the aid of harmonizing, minimal rhythmic structures and various effects.
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