Music Reviews



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Artist: Polticical Ritual (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ambiances Magnetiques (@)
Rated: *****
This was one heck of an album to track down the details for, which could have been solved simply by the inclusion of a one-sheet. If there was one it must have gotten lost en-route to me from Chain D.L.K. central, and just about everything about this album and its producers had to be sourced off the Internet. Have you ever tried Googling "Political Ritual" ? Just use your imagination as the results you'll get in this day and age. Fortunately, the artists, Félix-Antoine Morin & Maxime Corbeil-Perron, put their names on the album, but both being French-Canadian, much of the info about them and Political Ritual (the name of the project is also the album title) is in French. According to Morin and Corbeil-Perron, Political Ritual build their music in architectural and woven layers of harmony and polarity, arranging ethereal drone next to hard edged buzz or cinematic movements alongside pummeling beats. With live performance as their backdrop, Félix-Antoine Morin and Maxime Corbeil-Perron took to the studio in 2014 for their first album. Corbeil-Perron is a multidisciplinary artist who has created film and video work and interactive installations shown at international events and festivals, as well as making electro-acoustic and mixed-media music as Le Pélican Noir and solo – he also started a PhD at the Université de Montréal in fall 2015. A visual artist as well as an electro-acoustic composer, Morin works solo and collaborates with contemporary choreographers, videographers and several other musicians, finding inspiration for his poetic creations in the processual components of traditional and sacred music. Pushing the boundaries of abstraction, these expert improvisors in analog modular and digital synthesis incorporate invented wind instruments, traditional Balinese percussion, field recordings and digital signal processing into their compositions, intent on shaping a transcendent listening experience.

Okay, that's all well and good, but what does this album sound like? The album is comprised of two long pieces - "Ceremonie" (20:07) and "Projection cathodique" (21:35). While ambient in nature, this isn't a passive kind of ambient, but a very active, organic and highly charged sort of ambient. "Ceremonie" is full of crackling electronics and uneasy drones of indeterminate machinery. Over time it morphs into quasi-psychedelic Klaus Schulze territory before veering out into more experimental terrain. The oscillations employed are quite unsettling and throughout its droney demeanor, jarring events occur with some frequency in the background. Just when things seem to be humming along nicely the bottom drops out and the listener is transported to an alien construction site on some God-forsaken planet, replete with the distortion of heavy equipment until it grinds to a sudden halt.

"Projection cathodique" begins with a less forceful demeanor, the twinkling of crystalline high frequency particles over melodic sonorous low tones and held together with hollowish metallic drone substances. The latter sonority intensifies and echoes off in a feedback loop which morphs in myriad directions overtaking all other sonics present. There is a somewhat natural evolution to the unfolding of this piece that you just have to hear as any description fails to do it justice. Let's just say it gets pretty dense as sonic layers build on top of each other. By its conclusion there is a return to some of the elements that began this piece and so the cycle is complete.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't think a whole lot of the album on the first go-round, but after repeated plays the subtleties were revealed and the brilliance of the work became evident. That it was primarily released as a limited edition vinyl LP (500 copies, also available as a digital download) makes it an even more vital purchase.
Oct 17 2018
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Artist: Arca
Title: Forces
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Ici d’ailleurs/Mind Travels
Joan Cambon and Sylvian Chauveau’s long-standing collaboration has reached its fifth album. An intimate and at times quite minimalist collection of small synth sounds, complex rhythm programming, melodic pads and atmospherics, this is rich cultured electronica with a heartfelt tone.

There are some perkier tracks, like “Paul Favre-Miville” and the very well-formed “Bayan Hout” that have an almost playful energy that at times slightly undermines the album’s very earnest themes of conflict and displacement. These are muddled in with more atmospheric and earnest pieces like “Ossama Mohammed”.

“Anonymous Nigerian Refugee” is a rare vocal track, sampling the titular figure talking under clear duress about his predicament in the album’s only overtly political moment, which ends up also being a highlight.

It’s a pleasant and well-cooked sonic meal with some lovely textures in it, and while I don’t expect it to top too many people’s ‘best of the year’ lists on account of a fairly muted and modest character, it is an example of balanced and premium electronica done very well.
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Artist: Geir Sundstøl
Title: Brødløs
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
“Ambient goes country” is the headline of the blurb promoting that release, but that’s maybe a little bit misleading. I’d suggest that this is country music that’s going on a tentative electronic journey, as pedal steel, acoustic bass and twangy banjo remain firmly at the core, mapping out brooding and sometimes slightly Americana and bluesy patterns, but with some unusual production and atmospheric touches that twist the character a little. There’s also a breadth to the acoustic instrumentation that gives it a more cinematic and high-budget feel, with appearances from a Shankar guitar and an above-average span of percussive sounds.

It’s exemplified by tracks like “Kraag”, with its endearing melodic swagger. Final track “Waterloo” borders gently onto cheese with its plaintive trumpet leading into choral ahhhhh sounds. The two-note suspense work on “Laems”- possibly the National duolian, I have to admit I’m not sure- gives it a slight “60’s spy theme” flavour.

Imagine Ennio Morricone and Acker Bilk collaborating on a spaghetti Western set in a cold Norwegian village, and you’re somewhere near here. An unusual fusion of country and electronics with an emotively grey outlook.
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Artist: Daniela Orvin
Title: Home
Format: CD + Download
Label: Seasides On Postcards
The title and cover artwork of Daniela Orvin’s album imply a private, prosaic and personal domestic environment that we certainly hear in the Bach piano notes and ambience of the opener “Prelude”. But as the half-hour long album (arguably mini-album) unfolds, we are drawn into a more unexpected world. It’s like a soundtrack for a slow-paced sci-fi love story, where early-era Tangerine Dream-style synth work rolls gently and positively over warm textures and pads.

Highlights include the expansive “Unexpected Coincidence” and the soft arpeggios of “Spring Came Early”. The titular introspection gives us moodier pieces like “For Now” and the piano-centric “18,00 From My Balcony”.

At times it’s classical chillout music but built from synthwave-style ingredients, and it really works. The modest duration perhaps works in its favour. Orvin has been doing soundtrack work recently and on this evidence, her work should soon be in demand.
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Artist: Aviva Endean
Title: cinder : ember : ashes
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
This is Melbourne-based clarinet player Aviva Endean’s first solo release but it doesn’t appear short of confidence. Lengthy, indulgent and captivating experimental performances, making the most out of the clarinet’s distinctive deep tonal qualities, culminating in long rolls, and languid melodic elements.

There’s an intimacy to the recording, highlighted in the sharp breathy sounds prominent in “undulations : behind”. Predominantly it’s an album of sparse and ghostly atmospheres, notably in “apparition : above”, and while there are also some more chaotic moments, such as in “vapour between”, the boldly stripped-back instrumentation always provides a strict framework that keeps proceedings small.

Whilst principally solo, at times Endean uses timpani skins or pocket amplifiers to transform the sounds, and “undulations : behind” features a harmonic flute called an umtshingo which is melded with the clarinet notes in a nicely symbiotic way, the umtshingo giving the end product a temporarily more metallic- and even electronic-sounding edge.

Even without my previously disclosed love of the clarinet, I found this a really captivating bit of experimental audio performance, and considering that this is a solo debut, it’s barely anything short of stunning.
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