Music Reviews



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Artist: Quentin Sirjacq
Title: Companion
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
By means of his 4th solo album, the Parisian pianist Quentin Sirjacq confirms his penchant for what some reviewers could keep on naming contamination, but that it's a proper meeting of different styles, almost as if he's making music to demonstrate the multiple possibilities by which a simple piano can be intertwined to something different from traditional registers. So that piano can be considered, as the title of the album seems to suggest, a proper companion for his musical travels, like the one of the opening "Variations", where the melodic line gets immediately followed by resounding elements (conga, marimba, electronic synths and entities squeezed by recognizable drum machines), that could sound quite disorienting before the mellifluous musical speech moves toward clearer and less asynchronous dynamics. You could wonder how Quentin together with a skilled team of occasional collaborators from the French scene such as Vincent Taurelle (Air, Tony Allen, Vincent Ségal), Julien Loutelier (Cabaret Contemporain, Emile Parisien), Steve Arguelles (Benoit Delbecq, The Recyclers) and Arnaud Lassus (Ensemble Kern, Percussions de Strasbourg) manages to make his apparatus of complex mutations and stylistic hybrids so accessible by a wise usage of simple melodies that paradoxically disguise transmutations and transition particularly in tracks like "Dance", "Carol", "Companion" or the awesome "Choral" (the best moment of the whole album due to the unpredictable cross of film music and free jazz). Mutations or hybrids between electronic music, neoclassical, Balinese influences, Afro poly rhythms, film music or even the above-mentioned free jazz moments have rarely been less traumatizing than in records like these, where Quentin almost acts like a wise anesthetist.
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Artist: Tropic of Coldness (@)
Title: Maps of reason
Format: LP
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
Francis M Gri, appreciated sound artist and brave founder of KrysaliSound, reached a very important goal since the first bricks of his creation in 2010, the first release on vinyl, and he cannot but do a careful choice. He decided to start by inflating the entrancing breathes of Tropic of Coldness, the bicephalous project that Giovanni La Placa (guitarist, voice and sampler player in the experimental band Fuji Apple Worship) and David Gutman (already active in the indipendent Brussels scene, where he was mostly known for his electro/experimental band Drawing Virtual Gardens) conceived after their meeting in Brussels in the autumn of 2011. Described by Francis as "a mature work of rare sensitivity that manages to combine all the nuances of the soul as points of a map that every human being hides inside", this sonic pearl immediately grabs listeners by wrapping lukewarm synths, whose dazzling light get eclipsed by a feeble guitar-driven melody in the initial "The beauty and the meaning", a track whose title seems to suggest the shrilling contrast between a phenomenon whose appearance partially hides a hint of a forthcoming decay (like the contrast between the beauty of a butterfly and the awareness that its beauty has a short life). A sense of meaning gets evoked by the title track "Maps of reason", where a field recording evokes a walk in the wood, where the initially cold and simple tones get warmer and warmer, while the guitar gradually strays onto the stylistic shores of classic ambient since its final harmonic rift. The emotional framework of the following "The Loss of empathy" is really impossible to be framed (forgive the unconscious pun!), as it's an ocean of sonic waves, where the same wave could begin by evoking a feeling of peace before turning into something peaceless or uneasy, or where a concrete clearness could fade away into a vague sense of confusion. In spite of its more predictable dynamics, the last of the four tracks of this awesome album, titled "Diving for pearls", features a similarly harmonic dissonance, according to a sonic strategy which tries to balance and unify apparently opposed and contrasted emotions, belonging to the definition that the name of the project "Tropic of Coldness" seems to suggest.
Sep 21 2019
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Artist: Imiafan
Title: Videnie
Format: 12"
Label: Falco Invernale Records
Rated: *****
It's four years since Imiafan released their latest album "Krv iernobielych Fotografií" and that one saw Imi team up with Martin Burlas and Ivan Štrpka. For the new MLP "Videnie", released for the French label Falco Invernale, Imi Végh teamed up with Miki Bernath for the music and, as for the previous record, Ivan Štrpka for the lyrics. The six new tracks are in balance from minimal synth and electro: the opening "Bez Úst, Bez Ozveny" is a mid-tempo track that can be also used on a dancefloor thanks to its hard beats and paced arpeggios. "Stupaj" is a faster one but is less dancey due to the many stops and go. The MLP continues with the dreamy cold wave tracks: "Videnie", "Kto?", "Vakuum" and "Krik Pred Ústami". Here, the suspended in time effect help to create the right ambiance for the Slovakian lyrics of Ivan Štrpka. The lyrics are suggestions and they paint a sort of suburban despair which teams really well with the music. Some excerpts: "Peculiar autumn when people are afraid to open letters, so as not to catch a whiff of death" or "Reflections fade, breath disappears. The subway rustles".
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Artist: Angelspit
Title: Bang Operative
Format: CD + Download
Label: Black Pill Red Pill
After giving previous album “Black Dog Bite” a glowing review a couple of years ago (comparing it to acts like Blue Stahli and Celldweller), and being impressed with the Angelspit-produced Miss Ballistic album earlier this year as well, Angelspit’s eight album was a welcome arrival, and I’m happy to report it continues in much the same vein as before. It’s thick, angry, sharply produced electro-metal with muscle and vigour, littered with sharp percussive drops, heavy synth basses and distortion, all topped with frustrated anti-media, anti-celebrity, anti-quite-a-lot-of-things lyrics (exemplified in tracks like “No Guillotine, No Crown”).

The vocals are still largely restrained to one-note or narrow melodic ranges, befitting of the genre but this is what holds it back from having a real standout vocal hook that could cross over into radio land. Highlights that come close include “Celebrity Disorder”, or the on-the-nose but strangely satisfying “Jesus Disguise”.

Some tracks wear a slightly more retro and synthwave vibe on their sleeve, like the curiously catchy “Fear Monger” with its slightly Vangelis-esque and sci-fi melody line, the properly 80’s-esque final track “Promise Of Gold”, or the nicely dramatic “Play Rough” with its more understated spoken-word approach. Broadly I think the tracks with an element of drama and change, such as “HexenjÄger” (based on a soundtrack piece Angelspit originally produced for a short film) bring a breadth and are maybe more successful than the relentless wall-of-sound numbers.

It’s thirteen slices of roughly-four-minute-long angry anti-pop that deserves to find a wide audience, not just in the techno-emo area that it’s initially targeting.
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Artist: Chihei Hatakeyama
Title: Forgotten Hill
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
Tokyo-based ambient artist Chihei Hatakeyama here offers up a musical impression of a visit to the Asuka region of Japan, specifically to ancient stone burial mounds and chambers. Consequently, the result is a 37-minute collection of wide reverbs, synthetic melodic pads and melodic guitar shades that sounds hollow, deferential and calm- as though making music for some kind of alien church.

It’s divided into nine pieces, most around the four minute mark, which come across as single-page sketches rather than deep dives into longer ambient adventures. Some of these sketches are more appealing than others. The title track, that opens the release, is a strong relaxant. The sense of breathing and gradual build in “Buddha statue without roof” is really delicious, while the vocal tones of “The big stone tomb” bring another layer of richness.

However some pieces like “The constellation space” sound more like loose and lazy improvised noodling and fly too close to sounding kitsch for their own good. Some, like “Staring at the mountain”, fade out at the point where development is due.

For me the main problem with this release is the short nature of the tracks, which makes some pieces seem underbaked. It’s as though we are brief tourists to these environments, walking through and being impressed but not stopping long enough to appreciate their nature in any detail. Other than that, it’s a rich if perhaps slightly over-familiar ambient tone that’s gentle and pleasant.
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