Music Reviews



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Artist: BoyKingIslands
Title: Pastels
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Youngbloods
I’ll openly admit to being unfamiliar with Boy King Island’s three proper albums, so is this “demos and rarities” collection one of those studio floor sweepings that unearths some amazing gems and works as a successful album in its own right, or is this a collection of leftovers and offcuts whose non-inclusion on their other works was totally justified? The answer is somewhere inbetween the two.

There are some well-rounded whole pieces in here, such as the mellow, faintly Lemon Jelly-ish quirky downtempo of “Finally Home”, or the faintly sultry “Blue In Black”. It’s been neatly segued together so that tracks like “Memory Loop” and “See Through Your Eyes”, less than a minute long each, feel like movements of a longer whole rather than isolated cul-de-sacs. Ideas like “Chords From Snow” could easily have been explored in much greater depth.

There are also some random and abortive musical dead-ends. “A Tear & A Smile” has the feel of a lazy strumming experiment that never really took life, and the guitar demo version of “Echoes” sounds like an indulgent teenager noodling with a new electric guitar effects pedal in his bedroom. The demo versions of tracks like “All Green & White” have that lo-fi, giving-less-than-100% feel that you get when the performer knows it’s only a demo.

At 36 minutes for 18 tracks, the result is a patchwork quilt of ideas, many of them half baked, but thanks to some careful sequencing it holds together well enough to make an interesting and somewhat random listen.
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Artist: Adam Probert
Title: The Battle for Tomorrow
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sonic Entrails (@)
Rated: *****
According the accompanying one-sheet - "Adam Probert, punk poet, polemic wordsmith, dignity campaigner and experimental sound artist releases his debut album 'THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW' on Sonic Entrails Records. The album is a collaboration between Adam and Flesh Eating Foundation guru John E Smoke who produces and provides the sonic tapestries for Adam's prose. There is nothing else out there that sounds like this..." Well, that's for sure. Adam rants through eleven tracks with titles such as "The Light It Burns My Eyes," "I Am War," Take Your Fucking Medicine," Osama Obama," "Population Control," and others. Topics include war, the medical industry, social injustice, religious extremism, blind obedience, famine, surveillance and more. All the hot topics of the times. Smoke introduces electronic noises, dialogue samples and sound effects as a backdrop. There is a lot of anger expressed throughout, as perhaps there well should be, considering the termperament of today. This is a rough listen though, and I think you'd have to be rather psychotic to make it through the whole thing. I got as far as track 6, "What You Have to Hide," before I couldn't take it anymore. This is a British project and I think those punkers are a lot more open to this type of DIY weirdness than here in the States. Although I don't necessarily disagree with what Mr. Probert is espousing, I don't want to be listening to nearly an hour of it. It's one of those things that hearing it once is enough. One of the dialogue samples is about two minutes worth of a lecture about why chemotherapy doesn't work, and is just a money-maker for the medical industry. Really don't need that here as I think it takes away from what the poet is trying to express in his own words. After awhile those, even those words start to seem like noise in their didactic fervor. Smoke's experimental noise began to seem more interesting. Although there are some out there who are going to think this is the shit, I can't really recommend it. It's like an acquaintance who comes to visit and is amusing at first, but as time wears on, he gets so annoying you'd just wish he'd fucking leave.
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Artist: Daimon
Title: s/t
Format: CD + Download
Label: Metzger Therapie (@)
Rated: *****
This one seemed to have slipped in when I wasn't looking; I can't find the one-sheet or any promo material on this CD if it was ever accompanied by any. Be that as it may, Daimon is an obscure deep drone audio-visual project run by Paolo Monti (The Star Pillow), Nicola Quiriconi (Vipcancro, Lisca Records), Simon Balestrazzi (T.A.C., Kirlian Camera, Dream Weapon Ritual, etc), and this is their self-titled debut release. Tracks are titled "a call," "he's seeing you," "take the telescope and go," "almost blind," and "by this basement." As you might surmise, they are fairly lengthy with nothing under nine minutes. The music is somewhere between dark ambient and dream ambient, fairly grey and minimal for the most part. Although there is a somber tone throughout, I would call it more ominous than malevolent. Sometimes these dronescapes have subtle incidents or events such as distant children's voices, whispers, clicks and taps, squeaks and squeals, and other nebulous indeterminate sounds. These are rather hazy isolationist environments best listened to at low volume. Some tracks give the impression of small workshop environments without being mechanical or machine-oriented, more along the lines of minor physical manual labor. Various types of reverberation as well as feedback play a role in making these ambiences sound dramatic and all-encompassing, It's possible that this was created to be accompanied by some type of visual stimuli, but you can imagine it in your own head. For a debut release, 'Daimon' has merit and is well worth seeking out.
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Artist: David Arkenstone (@)
Title: Beneath a Darkening Sky
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Perhaps there is no other New Age artist who has a larger discography than David Arkenstone. With sixty-one studio albums, one live album, and four soundtracks, this is a composer to be reckoned with. Arkenstone has also been included on four compilation albums, and released an additional four albums with his trio, Troika. Additionally, he has composed a number of songs for the game World of Warcraft. He's been at this game a long time since 1987, and 'Beneath a Darkening Sky' is a long way off from the glimmering shimmer of albums such as 'Valley in the Clouds,' 'Spirit Wind,' and 'Atlantis.' Then again, without creating some of these symphonic opuses, Arkenstone would never have been able to come up with 'Beneath a Darkening Sky'. While not what I would call a true dark ambient album, Arkenstone embraces enough elements of shadow to make you think this couldn't possibly have been made by such a high profile New Age composer. There is less attention to melody and more to atmosphere than on many other Arkenstone releases giving him the opportunity to go in deep, and weave long sonorous ambiences that are not at all cheery and star-twinkly. For the most part, the seven tracks are cinematic, melancholic and Gothic; a certain sense of mystery, and ominous foreboding permeates the music. From the deep drones and breathy voices of "The Fog," to the swirling icy ambiance of "The Wind from the North," Arkenstone conjures chilling atmospheres that transport you to other realms; places where danger lurks and survival is something not taken for granted. Forget fairy castles and enchanted forests; Arkenstone's world in 'Beneath a Darkening Sky' is much gloomier and cimmerian. In a cinematic way it seems to relate more to a Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings type environment. (Although David dedicated the track "They Are Coming" to J.R.R. Tolkien.) Celtic and Middle Eastern flavors are also combined here and there giving the music an exotic quality. Choral voices as well. Arkenstone spares no attention to detail with his sound palette here. I really don't care much for New Age, but this music is "Another Age," and for that we can be wistful Beneath a Darkening Sky.
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Artist: Floating Di Morel / ULF/FDM
Title: ULF / FDM
Format: LP + Download
Label: Play Loud! Productions
This is a mini-album of two halves reflecting a transitional phase for Sabine Blödorn and Kai Drewitz, with the first three tracks their last working with Thorsten Neu, and the latter three tracks work with Ulf Goretski. The change in sonic identity is noticeable, but ultimately it all still sounds music at which you could throw labels such as dreamwave, lo-fi, shoegaze or dark wave and some of those would stick. Strumming drone guitars, slow sparse drum patterns and meandering spontaneous vocals swim together into something very insular and quite muddy.

The first three tracks comprise two short, almost poppy three-minute numbers in “Dragil” and “Pantomime Dog”, and the longer, slightly quirky steps of “White Nights o.t.m.” which was originally recorded for a documentary about Donna Summer, but certainly doesn’t sound like any Donna Summer record I’ve ever heard.

The last three tracks are more indulgent and more spacious (all 6 minutes or more). The feminine vocals are more accessible (relatively speaking), the mood a little dreamier, a little brighter. A frustrated-sounding “Instability” is followed by the steady pulse of “Lost”, which in turn gives way to broader, slightly more sci-fi tones in “Frost”.

It’s an interesting way to mark the changing of a band line-up, and it ends up being a surprisingly coherent listen, but falls a little short on energy and invention that might have got you excited for the new or nostaglic for the old.
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