Music Reviews



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Artist: Out Of Fuel (@)
Title: Isolation EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Translation Recordings
Rated: *****
This is the second EP (after the interesting 'Ghost Notes' in 2016) for Washington DC-based label Translation Recordings by the Finnish duo Out Of Fuel. As far as I can understand by listening to this "Isolation", the drops of fuel by which Otto Andelin and Matti Kaivanto fed this new sonic engine are mainly atmospheric. They forged really good and immersive sounds and such a skill sometimes make them forget to handle the rhythmical pattern in a more structured way, as you can hear since the opening "Minus 25", whose masterfully made sound and the whole icy dub-like movement really render the idea of a machine flooded by extremely low temperature, but where the percussive elements manage to make the track a little bit warmer, but without any staggering variation (maybe a choice arising from the paralyzing frost...). We find similar dynamics and configuration on the following tracks "Cabin Fever" and "Chain Reaction", where these guys get closer to the style of some dub techno entries that people like Lars Fenin, Daniel Meteo and Deadbeat were dropping ten years ago. My favorite track is "Hypersensitivity", the one where the catchy atmospherics of the sounds gets intertwined with a likewise catchy and finely crafted rhythmical pattern. The package also includes a very good remix of "Ghosts", where Resound, another knight of Translation Recordings seems to chew acidulous low frequencies and distant smokey reverbs in a rising feverish way.
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Artist: Cesium_137 (@)
Title: Rise To Conquer
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The saddest thing of this seventh album by FuturePop band Cesium137 is the fact that this soufflé that didn't arise is a dedication to Matt Cargill, co-founder of the band together with Isaac Glendening when they were students at high school, who left it to pursue a military career (firstly in the Army and then in the Navy) before his death for natural causes at the age of 22, occurring on April 2017. The baffling aspect of this album is the combination of uplifting EBM/EDM sonorities (a way to cheer them up by themselves?), memory-loaded lyrics and clues of "eschatology" that are clear since the intro of the opening "Tempest" (sounding like the soundtrack for a Baptist funeral oration...), but sadly (as I said) there are too many (genuinely musical) aspects of this release, that make me feel really perplexed. Lyrics are quite poor from the literal viewpoint and the flat vocals (often out-of-tune) don't really help to make them up; forthermore the synth-driven choruses and the celestial artificial fanfares, that sometimes resurface in the tracks of this "Rise to Conquer" (someone couldn't really understand why flaunting a feeling of militancy while reminiscing a dead friend, even if he was a soldier...), don't counterbalance a certain lack of stylistical originality and a couple of good tracks ("Diver" and "Consequence") are not enough in my opinion. Maybe the worshippers of the band could find other reasons to buy and listen to it...
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Artist: Astral & Shit
Title: Divo
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
Astral & Shit is the prolific project of Ivan Gomzikov from Russia. This release is presented with evocative words hinting a sort of gnostic inspiration behind it and this usually means that it's a dark ambient release. In fact, the music of this project is a canonical dark ambient but there's a more structured writing behind it i.e., it's not a simple drone but there's a more layered approach to sound using evocative samples.
The first track, "Riphean Mountains", has a quiet first part based on sparse samples on a pulsating background, a second one based on a sharp drone and third one based on a sort of hum. "Ursa Major" is a crescendo which surrounds the listener. "Polota Crossing" has a first part based on evocative foley sounds introducing a more canonical second part which evolves in "Mugodzhar", static track based on a too slowly evolving drone while "Taganay" make an effective use of noise to generate the illusion of movement. "Beryls Eyes" closes this release with a moving drone carefully constructed and developed.
While not exactly ground-breaking and somehow trivial in some solutions, it has good moments when the sound construction has the lead instead of a too contemplative drone. Only for fans of the genre but they will enjoy the release.
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Artist: Matawan
Title: We Lingered In The Chambers Of The Sea
Format: Tape
Label: Midira Records
Gareth Chapman and Barclay Brennan, as Matawan, release a turquoise cassette (and thankfully a download) of a single 31-minute melodic ambient piece in which various chord patterns and soft melodies in interesting and counterpounting rhythm patterns wash back and forth in gradually adjusting, quite thickly-applied layers. Repeating synth-string pads and organ-like synths and reverb-bathed piano sounds meld with slightly harder-edged tones, and a subtle whiff of processed guitar, to give the “full bombastic synth-orchestra” version of relaxing ambient music.

In the latter third, multiple layers of synchronised arpeggio melodies (from a “basic 90’s keyboard” apparently) add a pulsing rhythm that was absent before, tending at times almost towards synthpop chord changes, but deferring from assembling into any larger form or structure.

It’s a dense and straightforwardly emotional listen where changes happen a little more rapidly than you expect, almost as though a longer work has been compressed in time here because the duo found a stock of turquoise C60’s. It’s quite bold, but perhaps lacking in dynamism inbetween sections, and too relentlessly full-on, bordering on bombastic, for it to really strike an emotional chord. “Needs more light and shade”, as they say, but certainly a rich luxuriant carpet of symphonic-style ambient.
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Artist: Eric Maltz
Title: Pathway
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Flower Myth
New York-based Eric Maltz describes himself as a producer and pianist foremost and is a relative newcomer to techno, but from this 3-track 12” you wouldn’t tell. Here are three confident if straightforward bits of gentle techno that sound like they’ve come from somebody who’s been working in the genre for many years- in fact, if anything there’s a suggestion of lethargy and going-through-the-motions about these.

The title track is the strongest, with a simple slightly-sawtoothed synth melody dancing back and forth over a steady groove. 808-ish style rapid clapping and a bassline sounding like low piano notes give proceedings a decidedly late 80’s flavour.

“Ah-Shu-De-Ohu” revolves around some stuttered vocal samples looping round, which personally I’m not that enamoured with, I’m all for stuttering and experimentation but there’s something about this result that just doesn’t grab me. For the first three minutes it feels like it’s building to something, but that something never really arrives.

On the B-side, “Line Through” is a mellower affair of slightly balearic chords and gradually ebbing plinky chords swimming through reverb and delay over a steady-as-clockwork rhythm.

It’s smooth, quite satisfying, but it won’t really stand out in a crowd- a sort of everyday techno.
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