Music Reviews



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Artist: PIG
Title: Prey & Obey EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The creativity of Raymond Watts, the man behind the PIG moniker and the mixing desks as a sound engineer of many well-known names of the scenes (Einsturzende Neubauten and Psychic TV) and also known to be one leg of KMFDM, is experiencing a real state of grace: he released a brand new album - "The Gospel" -, a collection of remixes - "Swine & Punishment" and a couple EPs. "Prey & Obey" is one of them and maybe the most interesting for a set of reasons: the eye (and the ear) could be immediately caught by the inclusion of the remix of the title track by another big name of electronic industrial and synth-rock scene as Leather Strip (...and certainly the remix by Claus Larsen - LS's birth name - is amazing, and IMHO I think he noticed - as I did - that the way of singing sometimes could resemble - it sounds unbelievable - the one of Pete Burns in "You Spin Me Round"), but the track could be a very interesting starting point for forthcoming musical blossoms, as it comes from the collaboration between Raymond and an important portion of industrial-techno band Cubanate (Marc Heal and Phil Barry). This is not the only collaborative track of the EP. Actually, the other two tracks came out of collaborations as well: the more atmospheric "The Cult Of Chaos" got handled by former Combichrist member Z.Marr (he also dropped an electronic remix of "The Revelation"), while the cheekily rockish "The Revelation" (many would be tempted to misspell the title as "The Revolution", as Raymond managed to pour the word 'revelation' into a set of common lyrical constructs where the word 'revolution' gets typically matched..) got forged together with Ben Christo (Ghost, S.O.M.). Furthermore, the Berlin-based producer En Esch pushed an interesting remix of the title track by pushing it towards the boundaries of easily chewable adaptation of electronic dance to soundtracks for those series full of murderers, vampiresque entities or zombie killers.
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Artist: Seba & JR Vallo
Title: -15/Bon Voyage
Format: 12"
Label: Secret Operations (@)
Rated: *****
Just before the anniversary output related to the first 15 years of the label, Seba's imprint Secret Operations dropped this delicious tidbit, one of the fruit of the recent collaboration between the mastermind behind the curtains of the label and Patrik Valousek in the guise of JR Vallo (a bicephalous drum N bass entity which already landed on the catalogue of Fokuz, the amazing Dutch label powered by Triple Vision). The features of typical outputs by Seba can be easily caught in this new collaborative act: fast-rolling rhythmical patterns and perfect cuts masterfully softened by liquid sonorities, a formula that works as dream boosters besides inspiring flows to the dancehalls. My favourite track of the two tracks is "Bon Voyage" as I enjoyed the way by which they stretched in and out a slightly distorted low frequency as if it were a sort of elastic band, keeping together the crystalline beeps (the first sound you can hear since the beginning of the track), the percussive elements and other synth-driven softeners, that altogether render a comfortable high-speed journey. On the other track "-15", these guys roll and shuffle more or less the elements (plus a female voice shouting "Take it away"), but the elastic frequency is an almost neutral item of the track, focusing on stop'n'go sequences that made me think to an expedition to explore or escape from some glacial region, during which the brave explorers had to face obstacles like icy giants.
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Artist: Swarvy
Title: Bop
Format: LP + Download
Label: Paxico Records
Rated: *****
In this game called survival of the illest, Swarvy is a prime contender. The L.A.-based soundsmith crafts a veritable skating park of samples, audio pixels, and sparkling data streams in which fortunate listeners may half-pike to their heart’s content. The title track is a calling card in this regard, reconstructing found elements in a rotunda of electronica and dub. And while you won’t find too many nodding heads in this cityscape, you will find something rarer: a nodding heart. There’s a delivery truck’s worth of love in every moment of this meticulous record.

In “Ahoy!” and “Krunchrap,” that heart is turned inside-out for all to experience. Through lo-fi veils and lamentations, its beat stitches the title page of a corporeal chapbook. In such surroundings, the artificial feels part and parcel of everyday life, while snippets of the human voice come across as robotic. Other times—check “Astrognats” in particular—the pulse barely finds purchase. The key to its survival is consummation of the ear.

“Scrapplefromtheapple” and “Wait4me” drop us into industrial milieus of signals and anti-signals. Between them flows a social lubricant that acts as a prophylactic against compromise. “Marzbow,” for its part, is a siren song on the theme of currency. And while in title it may seem to be a homage to Japanese noise legend Merzbow, it is delicately executed. “Circles” more explicitly stuffs life experience into the commercial meat grinder as fodder for the cloud. A storm brews but never peaks, much like the dreams we wrap around ephemeral conferences of wire, glass, and metal.

Not all is angst and ennui. Whimsy abounds. Whether in the trip-heavy bluster of beat pollen and inner drive that is “Iiicccccyyyymmiiiinnnttt” or the dessert of confirmation served on the vinyl platter of “Well,” Swarvy powder-puffs captives of the modern condition and sends them merrily on their way, crackling down to the marrow with summery promise.

Bop is proof that scratching the surface can be just as deep as grabbing hold of the molten core. It’s an educational experience, a syllabus of syllabi, each a masterclass in morphing image into sound, and vice versa.
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Artist: The Holy Quintet
Title: Borough
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton
A semi-traditional quartet of viola, double bass, zither and bass clarinet are joined by “suitcase modular and radio” for a two-part experimental piece concerned with the overlapping of mixed drones and sustained string bowing with analogue-style electronic tones and some spontaneous percussive interruptions. Unusually liberated from trappings of a theme or higher concepts (the album is named after the location it was recorded in), there’s a reactionary, improvised call-and-response flavour throughout that fuels the dynamic- yet much of the bass instrumentation is rather sombre and slow.

The ‘radio’ element is mostly crackly static-style sounds which often counterpoint the remarkable purity of pune that gets generated by some of the other instruments. That’s not always the case though, as sometimes the strings and clarinet are used more aggressively and percussively as well, in a way that occasionally sounds rather… well, rather farty. There’s a section towards the middle of part two which is especially dissonant, the album’s most challenging section.

Capitalising on a rare opportunity where the whole quintet were in the same city at the same time, “Borough” was recorded in one day back in 2013, but the slightly rough-hewn edges to this work seem deliberate and composed rather than simply undercooked. Here are five experienced performers enjoying the opportunity to collaborate on something fairly loose and free with likeminded other players. In terms of ingredients it’s nothing new, but as a confident, 37-minute avantgarde work it’s hard to fault.
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Artist: The Mirror Unit (@)
Title: Wind Makes Weather
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
According to the explanation of saxophone players George Wisell and Tim O'Dwyer, the musicians behind this project (I should refer to them as 'units'), its name depends on the fact that they perform as if one reflects in the other, so that one acts like the mirror for the other and vice versa. The amazing aspect of their specularity, coming from a reciprocal knowledge and based also on the adoption of similar performative techniques, is the way by which they try to portray social situations, characters or even non-musical codes. The titles of each improvisations included in this output - entirely improvised and recorded live at the Peter Kowald Ort in Wuppertal on the 18th of June 2014 -, which became part of the huge catalogue of the Portuguese label Creative Sources in 2015, could be guidelines of what they are going to represent, even if the analogy is not that easy: for instance the scrawny structure, the constant segmented hops and even some occasional scream-like noises of "Arthropod" could be matched to arthropods' exoskeleton, their segmented bodies and sometimes the concern these invertebrates can inspire. Think about a mumbling, hardly busy and sometimes clumsy maid, while listening to "Whistling Maid", or some typically urban auditory startles, while listening to the opening "Authentic City". The author's winds could be imagined as a way to blink their coordinates in Morse code in the track "Morse", detectors of coming thunder storms in the title track of "Wind Makes Weather" or even the pencils of a sketch artist (check the sound of "Old Believer" and tell if it doesn't render the idea somehow...). The above-mentioned specularity could be better appreciated by the decision of recording each saxophone into two separate channels, Georg on the right channel and Tim on the left.
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