Music Reviews

Artist: Natalie Beridze
Title: Love Is Winning EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Georgian Natalie Beridze offers up a remix EP of tracks reworked from her tenth album “Guliagava”, and on the strength of the remixes, I absolutely must check out the originals.

The Thomas Fehlmann remix of “Those Things” is a thing of beauty. Understated, steady, thoughtful beats underpin a drifting melodic loop and strangely heartwarming source material. The jazzy bassline that introduces itself halfway through is the icing on the cake- or perhaps the icing underneath the cake.

The remix of “For Love” by Natalie’s long-time collaborator Nikakoi is a more upbeat, slightly swaggering lightweight glitch-step number. Donna Maya’s take on “Light Is Winning” is both sexier and more synthpop, bringing the breathiness to the fore, whilst Lightning Jules’ take on the same track is a more eclectic offering, starting out with a genuinely experimental tone before settling into a quirkly 93bpm groove littered with weird vocal-like stabs.

The main four tracks were sent as a promo, and they’re a high-quality and consistent 18-minute remix package. On the strength of these, it’s definitely worth all exploring the additional three remixes of “Light Is Winning”, Bandcamp exclusives from Gray, Ivory Bells and Box Von Düe.
Artist: Kaschade
Title: Performance (2016)
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
There’s an ‘old school’ feel to the experimentation throughout this work. “Performance” is an apt name for something that feels like it is being created live, a spontaneous collection of percussive and melodic stabs that involves taking jazz instruments like saxophones, prepared pianos and bluesy guitars and pulling them into an airy, empty, abstract space.

Whilst the pacing and the artistic tone is reminiscent of 1960’s Radiophonic Workshop, the sonic layout is modern and polished. It’s a subtle production, letting the instruments speak for themselves with only a few lashings of reverb and delay to make everything feel wider.

“Wax Cellulite” ends with one of the album’s few less relaxing moments, with the pervading melancholia turning into anger and frustration as a sax and a synth sound like they’re having a fight. In the first two-thirds of the album, more often and not though, this is plaintive, non-aggressive stuff- I wouldn’t go as far as “chill out” music might sometimes it’s not far off.

All of the above is solidly thrown out in the final third however, as the time we reach album closer “Golden Balls” that tone is thrown forcefully out of the window in favour of white noise and crescendo of agonised, frustrated wrangling. In a way it’s a disappointingly obvious end to something that was otherwise well-stocked for originality.

Synthesized, purely digital releases with this kind of sonic aesthetic are fairly commonplace nowadays (although not unwelcome!), but to hear an album like this, made with such conviction using so-called “proper” instruments, is refreshing and different. A gentler and more imaginative final third would have cemented it as truly outstanding.

At the time of writing, this 53-minute album is a bargain on Bandcamp. Cryptically the promo version that was sent was labelled “Performance (2016-2017)”, but given that it was released in October 2016, seemingly they dropped the ‘2017’ idea.
Artist: Arctic Sunrise
Title: When Traces End
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Sophomore album for the German duo of Torseten Verlinden (vocals) and Steve Baltes (electronics) who are Arctic Sunrise, following on the heels of last year's 'A Smarter Enemy'. While I liked that album well enough, 'When Traces End' is really a better effort, as experience can be a powerful motivator. What I like most about this album is its vibe; a hard to describe quality, but metaphorically, it squeezes the juice out of the darker aspects of 80's electropop distilling it down to a fine concentrate, then embellishes it with a modern millennial sensibility. Songs are moody and introspective, but not pointlessly angst-ridden as some of the gothier projects of the aforementioned bygone decade. The first couple of tracks have a Cure-ish sound to them musically. I really like the beat and descending staccato eighth-note synth line of second track, "Tell the Truth". The semi-cynical lyrics referring to people who lie to make themselves look good really resonated with me. The ambiguous "Mine Forever" might initially sound like an eulogistic love song to a deceased lover, but delve a little deeper and you can envision a psychopathic murder ballad. The guys create a great wistful atmosphere on "Let It Rain" and a kind of sinister one on "Over Me". Uptempo title track "When Traces End" may not have a dynamic hook, but it has plenty else going for it, vocally, lyrically and instrumentally. The warranted cynicism of "A Lifetime to Disagree" speaks volumes to the plight of so many who have to tow the corporate/party line just to survive, and the (futile) future of someday - "When I am older - a lifetime to disagree - I will be bolder...". "The End of Things" succinctly chronicles a resolute break-up, but in the downtempo "Your Eyes" it appears there is some melancholia for the loss. I would have liked a snappier, less brooding and more positive end to the album, but perhaps that would have been out of character. As is though, there is plenty to enjoy here, and I think the more it's played, the more it will grow on you. I said it before, and I say it again, this is thinking man's synthpop, devoid of the cliched silliness you often find in the genre, and we all could use some good music worth sinking your ears (and $$) into.
Artist: Rasalasad
Title: Thisomorphia
Format: CD
Label: Thisco (@)
Rated: *****
The impressive list of guests of this release, artists as as Jarboe, Merzbow or, marks, at least in part, the importance of the work of Fernando Cerqueira and his SPH which published a lot of tape that are now collector's items. Now his successor label, Thisco, publishes this collection of tracks where, as Rasalasad, he reworks sound sources of the guests or adds a music to their spoken words.
The voice of Jarboe opens this release in "Value" and is gently accompanied by a complex juxtaposition of drones while "Astellar", based on sources by Matthew Waldron, in noisier by nature. The field recording and small noises of "This" are exactly one step away from overwhelm the spoken word piece by Wildshores while the one by Von Magnet is underlined by drones and isolated buzzes in "This". The noisy sound sources provided by Emil Beaulieau for "Spectre" and by Masami Akita for "Axx" are treated in such a way that the drones used by Rasalad create a dialectic so it's not something that could cover the noises but instead it underlines them. The only track without a guest, "Night Walk", is intensely cinematic and the spoken word create that sort of sense of listening an audio track of a movie. "Silence" features spoken words from the same text by John Zerzan and when they appears distorted as they were recorded on a noisy radio channel marks a sharp departure from the previous quiet drones. "Deriva" is the first track using a rhythmic element, probably in the sound sources provided by Smell & Quim, and "Stellar", featuring Antonym, is almost a return to the form explored in "Night Walk" with his evocative use of movie samples. The remix by Shhh…. of "Simulacra" is a track based on the contrast between the quietness of the synth line and the noisy, and almost industrial, rhythmic part.
The great Cerqueira's merit is his ability to blend the multi-faceted contributions into a form which is reasonably coherent and doesn't generate, even in his variety, the sense of hearing a compilation. Apart from some technical flaws, as a couple of tracks ends abruptly, this release could even ends in some end of the year playlist as it reveals some really interesting writing ideas. Please hear carefully.
Artist: Flowers for Bodysnatchers
Title: Love Like Blood
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
After their previous well received album, Aokigahara, Flowers for Bodysnatchers returns with a new release that acts a next step towards a personal form of dark ambient where their sort of modern classical influence, marked by the presence of piano movements which are the skeleton of this release, creates something different inside of this genre.
The drone of "The Obscure You Deserve" introduces the listener to the first piano line of this release which covers all the sounds in the background, so it apparently seems an almost classical composition, while "Sorrow (Silhouette To Void)" carefully constructs a soundscape featuring sparse natural samples. The alternation between drones, noises and foley sounds makes "A Disease Called Love" a track of great complexity while the quiet return of the piano in "Hearken Our Storm" has a relation with the underlying samples. While the first of "To The Loveless" is almost noisy, the insertion of strings in the second part creates a romantic effect. The rhythmic structure of "The Life I Ruin" is a drastic departure from the atmosphere created to this point while "Tiny Black Tale" is an incursion into almost industrial territories with his abundant use of noises. The overall quietness of "Memory (Night To Void)" introduces the listener to the finale of "Time Shall Heal No Wounds" where the piano writes the last sad notes of this release under the sound of the rain and the voice of the crows.
A vast improvement in all aspect from their previous release, this album is perhaps one the best release of the year in this genre with his remarkable variety. Truly recommended.
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