Music Reviews



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Artist: Synth Bard
Title: Gold Box Renditions
Format: Tape
Label: Ephem Aural (@)
Rated: *****
Synth Bard 'Gold Box Renditions' is a super cool collection of renditions of SSI's Dungeons and Dragons DOS games (released in the nineties) made on analog synthesizers. The weapons of choice used by Synth Bard are the mighty Korg MS-20, the always good Dave Smith's instruments Mopho and the Waldorf Rocket, which is a small portable analog synthesizer. An assortment of guitar pedals was used to make it sound 100% analog. It introduces a bit of background noise but the overall recording is fairly clean. The tunes here are epic, catchy and melodic. This is the good stuff, a true geek wet dream! The tape itself is a work of art for any self-respected nerds: the sleeve reproduce the artwork of the original SSI's games, the tape has a strange brownish color and it comes with a Dungeons & Dragons character record sheet! The quality of the tracks is consistent, there is no fillers or boring tunes. There isn't much more to ad, it's simple and good. Plus, all the proceeds are donated to SOS Children's Village. Highly recommended!
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Artist: Ice Yatch
Title: Pole Of Cold
Format: Tape
Label: Fragment Factory (@)
Rated: *****
Ice Yacht is an old pseudonym brought back to life by veteran underground music artist's Philip Sanderson. It was used for the first time on a Snatch Tapes compilation in 1981. 'Pole Of Cold' represent this idea of a project 'frozen' for many years that is suddenly brought back to life out of the blue in 2015. For those who don't know, Philip Sanderson is a pioneer in the underground experimental music scene, he ran Snatch Tapes, one of the first home made tape label, which was founded in 1979. Until now, Sanderson's made music under various pseudonyms: Storm Bugs, Vote Police, Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey. For this release, Philip Sanderson decided to take the analog rhythmic route, somehow cinematic and reminiscent of the North Pole climate and snow fields. The analog beats are mix with ethereal pads, obscure loops and cold soundbeds. It's all very well executed and beautifully produced, it's even recorded directly into tape, but I can't help but feel there's something's missing. While listening to the album, I felt that the music was well done but somehow forgettable. I wish Sanderson would have push himself a little more and made something truly outstanding. As it is, there isn't anything on this album I haven't heard before and I don't feel the rougher tones of analog synthesizers really fits with the North Pole aesthetic. Furthermore, I've felt that the artist had an idea for a piece, made the track and let it run on autopilot, looping for a couple of minutes. There's a lack of variations and crescendo. However, I've read good reviews of the album, so I guess it might please fans of analog synthesizer music with a more experimental and ethereal tone. It's not a bad release by any means, it's just under developed and unfinished even though the production is really good.
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Artist: Hey Exit
Title: Anura
Format: Tape
Label: Lurker Bias
Rated: *****
Anura is a beautiful ambient guitar album, very emotional and deep, recorded by Hey Exit, a young musician living in Brooklyn. It's a surprisingly overlooked release by Chicago based label Lurker Bias, surprisingly because I've really connected with the album and I think it deserves more attention. Most of the tracks on Anura have a melancholic vibe that I really dig. The mixture of echoing guitar and noisy soundscapes are perfect and if a comparison has to be made, Polmo Polpo guitar works comes to mind. It's also in the same vein as Tim Hecker's haunt me, haunt me again. Like those artists, Hey Exit is a real musician who can actually play beautiful harmonies and evolving melodies, unlike a lot of experimental acts who don't seem to be able to shift from noise to music or mix both at the same time, like Hey Exit does. Good examples of this are heard on tracks like 'Puppies (7 Year Rabbit Cycle cover) and 'A Labyrinthine Impulse'. However, I wish there was some kind of unifying theme to the album. A story or message, a unifying idea connecting both the artwork, packaging and music would have made this a great release instead of a good one. As it is, it's a very nice collection of solid tunes and not much more. Overall, I've found the album to be very good but too short (20 minutes), I wish it lasted at least twice as long but at least there's no fillers. The audio cassette is limited to 15 copies, well worth the 6$ it sells for if you ask me. Recommended for fans of shoegaze, dark ambient and sludge.
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Artist: Power Pill Fist
Title: Werebeard
Format: Tape
Label: i, absentee (@)
Rated: *****
Power Pill Fist is the project of Ken Fec, an ex-member of Black Moth Super Rainbow based in Pittsburgh. Werebeard is his third full length album, following Extra Life and KONGMANIVONG, both release on Graveface Records, a label own by a member of Black Moth Super Rainbow (Ryan Graveface). Ken Fec's music is a mixture of drum machines, electric bass, acoustic guitar and Atari synthesizer. I particularly enjoyed the melodies created with the later, as I feel it gives the album an edge. The textures Ken Fec creates with the Atari synthesizer are surprisingly deep too, for instance on 'Antrobus' the acoustic guitar riff nicely complement the synthesizer sweeps and steady robot alike drum machine beat. For a noisy release, the production is top notch, even though you can clearly hear the tape hiss, the bass are round and the high frequencies are clear, something rare for an underground release. Some tracks, like 'Little Dude Guy', have great ambient melodies that are reminiscent of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works. Others are noisier and more punk, I guess that's why this release is billed as 'Atari noise rock'. For me, it took a couple of listens to make those noisier tracks grow on me. Standout tracks in this genre are 'Stank Tank' and 'Swear Jar'. The intro piece 'Root Ball' has a nice balance between the noisier and softer sides of Power Pill Fist, it's also a very catchy tune that easily get caught in the ears. There's also some cool little field recordings tracks with minimal instrumentation and dialogues. Overall, I would say that if you're into chiptunes and rock version of video games music, Werebeard is for you. Ken Fec's third album is also the first cassette release by i, absentee records. The artwork looks great and the cassette itself is clear blue, which looks awesome. Collectors take notice: the tape is a limited edition of 100 copies.
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Artist: Janek Schaefer (@)
Title: Inner Space Memorial in Wonderland
Format: 12"
Label: Dekorder
Rated: *****
The second simultaneous output by Janek Schaefer on Dekorder, "Inner Space Memorial In Wonderland", portrays the second stylistical directrix of his recent sonic research. Likewise some stuff of the twin output "Unfolding Luxury Beyond The City Of Dreams", thw two long-lasting suites - their lenght as well as their sonic nuance focusing on minimal drones will delight fans of William Basinski - derive from the re-shuffle of previously recorded stuff. The one I liked most is "Inner Space Memorial", a dedication to sci-fi novelist J.G.Ballard and part of an audiovisual commemorative tribute that got composed by Janek just after Ballard, who lived just over the river of Janek's home, passed away. Its ascensional drone, whose seemingly static tone varies inintensity by means of slight pitching, volume modulations and saturation, got premiered at Bluecoat, the contemporary arts center inside the oldest building in the historical centre of Liverpool. THere's also a connection to the inventive sci-fi novelist on the following suite "Wonderland", originally made for the finale of his exhibition soundtrack to "Asleep at the wheel", as the field recordings that got diluted in soundwaves were "made in the middle of the night on a footbridge over the M3, at the end of Ballard's street", according to Janek's own words. Janek himself didn't hide his fascination "to work out that while he was writing Crash and Concrete Island, the six lane motorway was being built right past the front of his home". Try playing "Wonderland" while driving in the night while the surrounding metropolis sounds like sleeping.
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