Music Reviews



Artist: orchestramaxfieldparrish
Title: The Silent Breath Of Emptiness
Format: CD
Label: Faith Strange Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the name of the band, this is the solo work of Mike Fazio. I had not heard of this project, but I am familiar with his work in Copernicus, which is a wonderful blend of poetry and music. The label describes the disc thus: "This new recording consists of an improvised solo electric guitar soundscape originally intended for an exhibition of local area visual artists that never came to be. This piece was totally improvised and freeform, recorded live and captured in one take and then divided into 4 parts." Guitar drone is often polarized in terms of qualitywhen it’s good it’s really good and when it’s bad it’s really bad and there is little in between. Fortunately, this falls on the good side of the spectrum, probably because it doesn’t really sound like just guitar drone. I’m assuming that there are a lot of effects being used to create the variety of sounds in these tracks. The album opens with what sounds like an orchestra warming up for performance. As the disc progresses, the layers become more and more intertwined to the point where, in Part 3, it becomes almost like a wall of noise that continually crescendos and decrescendos. But this wall of noise is not to be confused with the Merzbow style of wall of noise. It never becomes oppressive, just intense. Overall, this is a nice disc to relax to but still engaging. I suppose it would work for your next gallery installation as well... . The main comparison that comes to mind is Vidna Obmana. This disc weighs in at 49 minutes and is nicely packaged in a digipak. You can check out some of it at his myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/orchestramaxfieldparrish.
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Artist: Jess Rowland (@)
Title: The Shape of Poison
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here’s how the press release describes the disc: "Shape of Poison, for solo piano performance and electronics, mixes unique live electro-acoustic experimentation with cut-up gamelan, crunched-out Casio tones, and other uncharted sonic landscapes." OK - sounds promising. Unfortunately this disc is pretty heavy on the piano and very light on the experimentation. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I was expecting. If I had to compare it to anything, I would say it’s sort of like Nature and Organisation’s "Death in a Snow Leopard Winter" or perhaps Feu Follet & Miina Virtanen’s "The Icicle Lectures Vol. 1" without the drones. Let’s look at the individual tracks. "The Waves Sound Sometimes Close and Sometimes Far Away": This is pretty much straight piano improvisation. It’s nice, but it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. "A Dragonfly Vainly Tries to Settle onto a Leaf": Piano with some noisy elements, but not terribly chaotic. "Kotekan Seniman Alam/Waves Fade into the Distance": This twenty minute track is by far the standout on this disc. It’s a lot more engaging, mixing slow but heavy piano with fast paced gamelan. It almost sounds like two separate tracks, with a long pause about six minutes in. The track later goes back to straight piano for the most part, but I really wish that the rest of the disc was more like this track. Overall, the disc is a pleasant listen, but not terribly demanding. This seems to just flirt with the idea of experimental music. This disc weighs in at 44 minutes.
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Artist: Alpha (@)
Title: The Sky is Mine
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Cat N Roof Records (@)
Here’s what the label states about this disc: "This is essentially Alpha's best remixes but also included brand new Horace Andy and Alpha tracks. But our interest in the moment is to get as much exposure as possible for their fourth vocal album 'The Sky Is Mine' it’s absolutely stunning." They certainly are casting a wide net and I’ll review it as best I can. A blurb on the site from Melody Maker states, "Its trip hop, I guess, as much as Radiohead are rock’n’roll," and that sounds about accurate. This is essentially pop, although to its credit it isn’t terribly radio friendly; it’s not upbeat enough. Slow moving synth washes and smoky female vocals. It doesn’t lend itself well to comparison, which in itself is a good thing. Some step outside of the formula. For example, "Home" is a peaceful track with acoustic guitar and lilting vocals. "A Little Poison" is a powerful, yet depressing track that calls to mind a scorned woman, and buried at the end of the track is a bonus of synth and ethereal vocals. Disc 2 consists of bonus tracks and remixes. "Brasier Ardent Theme" kind of reminds me of the theme from "Midnight Cowboy." "Till You Drop" has a great spastic beat to it. "Burn Me Again" is a nice minimal track that is quite soothing and then unloads with both barrels – sort of reminds me of Torcher. Overall, I enjoyed the remix disc far more than the album itself. These tracks seem to break out of the mold and really push the envelope. Disc 1 weighs in at 63 minutes and Disc 2 is 54 minutes. If you want to hear them, check out their myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/alphastargazing.
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Artist: Accomplice Affair (@)
Title: Jezioro wspomnień
Format: CD
Label: My Hands Music
Rated: *****
I had not previously heard of this Polish act. This is generally decent synth based ambient music with a bit of guitar thrown in for good measure. The music is soothing and peaceful. It doesn’t really have any of the noisy or dissonant elements that one would expect from dark ambient. Maybe it’s a stretch, but the only comparison that I could come up with is Orb. There are some exceptions to the formula though. For example, "Na szczycie olbrzymiej góry" (try saying that 5 times quickly) brings in some processed voices and some lightly distorted guitar. Even so, it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. Overall, it’s a pleasant listen but doesn’t really break any new ground. This disc weighs in at 44 minutes.
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Artist: Skin Contact (@)
Title: The Fine Line
Format: CD EP
You have to love a guy who has remix kits for his albums right on his website. I had not heard of Skin Contact, but the music sounds familiar. The list of influences this artists lists (that I agree with) includes: Front 242, X Marks the Pedwalk, The Crystal Method, Juno Reactor, The Future Sound of London, Autechre. The list goes on. You know this stuff. Skin Contact is a group that came about two decades too late. This is the kind of stuff that Wax Trax might have put out back in the day. This disc offers up stripped down instrumental industrial dance music with the occasional obligatory samples interspersed here and there. Perhaps what is most surprising is the cleanness of the sound for a self-released disc, but considering Breidenbach does freelance sound work it makes sense. But it’s almost too clean; I tend to like my industrial a bit more gritty. It finally occurred to me what this music would be good for – it isn’t really something that would drag me out onto the dance floor. It reminds me a lot of Alien Sex Fiend’s soundtrack to Inferno. This would make ideal video game music. Not bad, but it didn’t really do much for me. The only exception is the last track, "Over," that is a nice wash of noisy sweeps of sound and what sounds like stretched voices. This disc weighs in at 28 minutes.
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