Music Reviews



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Artist: Thomas Buckner, Claudio Parodi (@)
Title: Taken From A True Story
Format: CD
Label: Extreme (@)
Rated: *****
This album is the recording of two day's improvisation of Thomas Buckner with his baritone voice and Claudio Parodi on Turkish clarinet recorded, according to the cd's liner notes, direct to hard disc. The overall result is on the path of certain reductionism searching for subtle details of the instrument's palette as the baritone uses his voice as an instrument rather than traditionally sing and so it develops a real dialog with the clarinet which is not forced to accompany a text.
The clarinet opens "They Are Taking Our Jobs And Our Women" with fragmented lines under the quiet gabble of the voice that slowly develops it in amplitude and complexity until the end of the track. The sustained notes of the voice develop a subtle melody in "Never Have Sex On The First Date" that is doubled by a clarinet that doesn't disdain even some roughness while, in the second part of the track, it develops a true dialectic with the voice. "In The Courtyard" is a small intermezzo that introduces "Boxing-Match" where, as the title ironically suggests, there's a vocal research to introduces his tones without resorting to a scream to balance the high pitch of the clarinet, while "Vegetarian Food Is Delicious, But God Bless The Pork" there's some real tonal superimposition between the voice and the clarinet. "A Sailor Gets Back Home" is a short track closer to a song form as the clarinet seems to accompany the voice while "Obituary" starts as an humble meditation for voice and clarinet and evolve as a religious chant without his rhetoric. "Rave Party" is the juxtaposition of a voice and clarinet searching, in an almost inaudible volume, subtle nuances of tones while "Coming Out" juxtaposes sustained tones. "Not For Beginners" closes this release with the voice and the clarinet in a dialogue when the slow development of the voice line is opposed to the fast phrases of the clarinet.
Recorded in an almost old fashioned way to fully reenact the proper musical dynamics, this is not a simple listening as the musicians often prefer to play at pianissimo level searching a sort of hiding place in the environment. In times where music is often used as a background for other activities, this kind of music, even is codified, maintains intact his property of social commentary and requires a real intention to listen. If someone prefers to hear could rate it with two star but the others would rate it almost five so the average is 3.5.
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Artist: Ivan Iusco
Title: Transients
Format: CD
Label: Minus Habens (@)
Distributor: Family Affair Distributions srl
Rated: *****
I've been familiar with Iusco's name since the early '90es as the founder of Minus Habens, one of Italy's most prominent electronic music labels (which released things by Angelo Badalamenti, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode and a number of Italian artists). I was less familiar with Iusco as a composer, but it turns out he's moved operations to Los Angeles and has been working hard as a film composer scoring mostly Italian movies for the better part of the last 15 years.

"Transients" is his second album and showcases his evolution from electronic music tinkerer to full blown orchestral composer. The cover art work of the digi pack looks like a blurred version of a dutch masters painting or a Rembrant portrait but it's actually by the internationally-acclaimed artists Miaz Brothers.

The album starts off with tracks that are very cinematic (as is most of the record, really) and more orchestral. Layers of more than 20 real world wind, brass, string instruments and atmospheres that range from mysterious and melancholic to grand and majestic... When there is a real violin (like on track "Mobilis in Mobili", played by Pantaleo Gadaleta, who also played with the great Morricone and Antony and the Johnsons) you can really hear how the track is lifted to a whole other level, proof of what true musicianship can contribute to any computer generate music project! Then from the fifth track on Iusco pulls out his nails and teeth out and sinks them into the largely unprepared listener with some great mean-ass IDM/industrial/electronic sounds... Two tracks later the album takes another sudden turn and becomes a more vintage sounding, dare I say, almost nostalgic old-school electronica record (echoes of Clock DVA, maybe even Tangerine Dream...). On the eight track ("Circuitless") a female vocalist is introduced (it's Tying Tiffany, who's been featured on CSI, The Hunger Games)... Then Ivan dips back into ethereal ambient soundscapism that almost leaves you with a sense of uneasiness and peace at the same time. But obviously, he prefers to pick things up again and go out in a blaze of glory because the closing "Unconquered" track is what you'd expect from the end scene of some epic battle movie or even a spaceship battle sci-fi film: it's as victorious, dazzling and magnum opus-like as you'd imagine it, the perfect end credit music for this album, even though it almost ends too soon and abruptly...

If you are into soundtracks and epic movie music that is a mixture of electronica and classical music, or any of those genres taken on their own for that matter, I'd recommend you give this a spin, or at least preview it on iTunes. There's some really good stuff in there!
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Artist: Doomsday Virus (@)
Title: Mutually Abusive
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Unless you're a follower of the Upstate New York Goth-Industrial scene you may never have heard or heard of Doomsday Virus, but that's about to change. The project was first conceived in the basement of a rat-infested Buffalo, New York apartment building during the spring of 1998 by leader N. Dru Virus, but it wasn't until he relocated to Albany in the winter of 2001 that the incubation period really began. The earliest releases go back to 2005 - 'Cries of All Things Left Unsaid" and 'Catastrophic Error,' with a followup, 'Drink the Kool-Aid' in 2008. Now they're back eight years later with 'Mutually Abusive' with the lineup of N. Dru Virus - vocals, synth & drum programming and shitty guitars (his adjective, not mine); RaHb Eleven - synth & drum programming, legit guitars; and Matt Vellocet - live synths, recording engineer and whip cracking. Doomsday Virus is an industrial metal band in the vein of Ministry and KMFDM, with a touch of aggrotech, ala Combichrist.

The band has grown considerably since their previous releases, and 'Mutually Abusive' is an album on steroids compared what went before. From the thunderous opening of "Cracks in the Facade" all kinds of hell is unleashed on the unsuspecting listener. It's a tumultuous rage-fueled juggernaut that lets you know in no uncertain terms where these guys stand. It gets no less malovlent on "Die Alone" as the band hits its stride. You can dance to this, you can headbang to this, and it has a decent hook too! R.E.'s industrial guitar holds up with the best of them. I thought maybe that Doomsday Virus didn't have much of a sense of humor until I heard "Save Our Souls," the likely hit of the album. Synths are a little more prominent on this one, and the vocals quite intelligible. N. Dru rhymes more "shun" words in this song than Bill Leeb ever did - combination, tribulation, frustration, temptation, etc., etc. His vocals are remarkably similar to Andy LaPlegua's in many places, but this is no Combichrist clone. "Cold, Colder" could only have been written by someone who survived last winter here in Upstate NY. DV bring plenty of nastiness to the table on "Fool Me," a caustic warning of sorts. Imagine if Marilyn Manson fronted Front Line Assembly for a day...the result might just be "Flatline". All the stops get pulled out on "Life Deleted," a track that proves Doomsday Virus can go toe-to-toe with the heavyweights on the industrial music scene. Technically the album ends with "I Hope You Expected to Be Let Down," and for me, there was just a little too much chaos on this one. But wait...there's more, but only if you buy the CD as opposed to the download. "Waiting" is the tenth track, not named on the CD. It's much slower than anything else on the album, but perhaps more virulent. They go out with one big, heavy bang and no whimper.

'Mutually Abusive' should get these guys further than any of their previous efforts, and for fans of the genre, will likely provoke a positive response. When it comes to this kind of music, touring is essential, and if they can convey it live, Doomsday Virus should spread like a plague.
Jan 31 2016
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Artist: .- (@)
Title: eaux saines
Format: Tape
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
From Bordeaux, France comes this cryptic project, ".-" in Morse code, or 'eaux saines' in French, which means "safe waters". I'm not sure these waters are so safe after listening to this debut album, but I'm jumping in anyway without a life preserver. Colin, the man behind this solo project has a background playing in noise/punk/hardcore bands, but this is something different. eaux saines is much more in the industrial/electro/darkwave/coldwave vein relying primarily on synthesizers and programmed drums and percusssion, and some (quite distorted) guitar as well as vocals. First track, "les eaux saines" is quite industrial and reminds me of John Bergin's C17H19NO3 industrial project. Lots of distortion, submerged ghostly vocals, basic heavy industrial beat, and a guitar wail. A simple melody line follows the progression, all pretty cool actually. Nice introduction, and the noise is a key component. Second track, "almost" is nearly in the vein of Signal Aout 42, an old school Belgian Electro/EBM band often compared to Depeche Mode. Here the somewhat monotone vocals (sung in English) are more intelligable and the synth sounds are dirty and gritty giving a fresh perspective to dark synthpop. There is a shoegazer quality to "drunk in your bed," channeling some of the noisier aspects of My Bloody Valentine in an electronica setting. The squinky electronics in the brief break and elsewhere lift this song well beyond the norm. "des mots," sung in French, is some fine Coldwave, and by this time I'm realizing that this melding of noise-electronica and synthpop is really paying off. When Brian Eno broke new ground on his first couple of studio albums utilizing some of these techniques it was considered revolutionary. This project goes even further into the noise aspect, but still retains a dark pop sensibility.

"one day, ten years" is an introspective yet harrowing piece that envelops you with the gloom of futility. The doom metalish "le chant des sirens" crushes all hope with walls of distoted guitar over submerged vocals. Yet again though things readically change on "lost sailplanes" moving squarely into synthpop territory. Gary Numan-esque synths and a great melody/hook make this an amazing standout track. The vocals (in English) are the clearest and cleanest on the album. The synthwork is stellar, the sound is modern, yet recalls some of the best things I've ever heard in the genre. Back to underground electronica on "unfalling", like Depeche Mode falling off the deep end into the dark abyss. It all ends with "this smile," an apocalyptic synth-heavy number that really crushes it. WOW!

For a debut, this is astounding. It is something you just have to hear. Unfortunately, the ones who need to hear it the most probably never will. Being released on cassette, and not until March 2016 (it's in pre-order now) may all but guarantee its anonimity. If there ever was something well worth seeking out, .-, or 'eaux saines' is it.
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Artist: How to Cure Our Soul (@)
Title: Luna
Format: Tape
Label: Low Point (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from this italian band is focused on night landscape so its title "Luna" i.e., moon, evokes the aural phenomenon where, at night, without the day noises there are unnoticed sounds that emerges. This soundscape which should have also a visual counterpart as this is an audio-visual project is based upon drones generated from electric guitars, sampling, effects pedals and tape manipulation so it's something as digital as analog which fill the aural spectrum but leaving space for other sound to interact with the music.
The initial drone of "From the village to the country under the moonlight" quietly starts this release and slowly evolves until it's substituted by another drone which is resolved into another drone. The hypnotic quality of the construction is marked out by the concern that there's no sense of the fact that the track is based on three drones until there's any analytical analysis of the track, at the first listening there's only the vague sense that something has changed. "Midnight: song of crickets on the green hill" is based on the progressive juxtaposition of drones until there a fulfillment of the aural space. "Night climb to the Mount Analogue" closes this release is based on a single slowly evolving drone that is doubled to another ones which creates certain resonances unveiling sonic details of prismatic beauty.
This is a release so coupled to a rigorous form that could be as boring at a distract listening as enchanting at a rigorous one. It's not a record for everyone but every fan of drone music will listen to this tape until it's disintegrated. Applause.
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