Music Reviews



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Artist: M.B. + NIMH
Title: Together's Symphony
Format: 4 x CD (quadruple CD boxset)
Label: Silentes
Rated: *****
This massive 4-cd box, released in a limited edition of 300 copies, features two solo albums, Maurizio Bianchi's "Niddha Emmhna" and Nimh's "Subterrean Thoughts", a collaborative one, "Secluded Truths", and a split one, entitling the whole boxset and exclusive to it (while all the other titles are also sold separately). This flow of titles marks the return of Giuseppe Verticchio/Nimh in the Amplexus/Silentes catalogue (after "The Impossible Days" and his collaboration with Nefelheim, "Whispers from the Ashes"), and witnesses a period of particular prolificacy for Bianchi, with new solo releases on Silentes, Small Voices etc. and new collaborative works with Land Use, Telepherique, etc. Let's start with the solo discs. "Niddha Emmhna" features two lengthy tracks inspired by verses of the "Leviticus", respectively defined by Bianchi himself as a "plasmatic symphony for electronic particles, erythrocyte frequencies and menarchal viola" and a "hemolytic decomposition for neurologic piano, coagulant clangs and leucocyte sonances". The cosmic synth patterns in "Niddha" are disturbed by the viola and noisy electronics, but the true surprise comes with the overwhelming "Emmhna", an abysmal descent into cacophony which could really remind of seminal past works of Bianchi's like "Armaghedon". This monstrous, unbelievably bleak composition is probably the gem of the whole work. Nimh's "Subterrean Thoughts" sees Verticchio's synth-based ambient in its more sombre vein, already explored in works like "Line of Fire" and "The Impossible Days". I wouldn't exactly call it "dark ambient", but the Roman musician surely prefers tension to relaxing atmospheres. To his usual array of instruments (synths, keyboards, ethnic samples, field recordings, etc.) he now adds recognizable guitar lines in "Subterrean Thoughts", a melody which also closes the cd in a piano reprise. I venture Nimh is going through a process of change and experimentation, as there are many different inputs in these tracks that could be explored further. "Secluded Truth", the collaborative cd, is also the one I honestly like less, possibly because it's where the cosmic ambient influences of the two are more evident, and I'm not particularly moved by that kind of music. I dig the darker tracks, like "The Sacred Outside" and "Leaving the Time", but I'm not really convinced by the rest. In "The World Beyond", for example, the synth melody is a bit jarring when matched with ethnic percussions and digital programming. As a whole, the cd has plenty of good moments, but the collaboration never seems to truly sparkle. The exclusive cd, on the contrary, is enjoyable from start to end. Bianchi offers two obscure tracks, "Land Use I" and the brooding "Land Use II", whose obsessive mechanical loops again remind of his glorious and pioneering industrial past; and Nimh's three pieces are a perfect match, with the menacing tension of "Beyond the Gates...", "Black Earth" and "...the Garden of Loneliness", the last two featuring a distorted electric guitar which brings to mind Maeror Tri and Troum. A recommended listen for fans of industrial-tinged ambiences.
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Artist: Tuner (Pat Mastelotto & Markus Reute
Title: Totem
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Unsung records (@)
Distributor: The Orchard, Soleilmoon, Burning Shed, DGM, Penn Music, JPC
Rated: *****
Except for the Young Gods and more live-d'n'b-oriented projects (such as the ones by Jojo Majer or Guy Licata), it seems to me that very few bands have understood how much a live drummer rocking out on his skins (instead of just swinging on the cymbals like many goth bands have done) can add to an electronic music project, making it more exciting, more powerful and more delivering. This record might not be able to change the course of events for the better in the future, but at least adds another great example of how effective the drum+electronics union really is.
US drummer Pat Mastelotto is certainly not new to this concept (he used to also play for King Crimson for more than 10 years), so when you pair up a guy like him with Germany's virtuoso touch-guitarist Markus Reuter (of Centrozoon fame), you'll pretty quickly end up with some kick ass good electronic-rock music. Contrarywise to what you might expect, this is not your average technical-abilities-showcasing prog-rock old-timers reuinion were skilled cats celebrate themselves with never ending solos and intricate fusion of rock tunes and jazz constructions. "Totem" rather focuses on composition and on conveying the message, whatever that might be, in an articulate, powerful and engaging way. Their mixture of avant-rock is heavily infuenced by the sum of the duo's experiences but sounds new and original all together. The multi-faceted talents of Mastelotto's versatile performances come out in the form of wild cymbal-heavy experimental drumming, drum-pad beats, square on the money drumming with powerful tom toms breaks (that might actually remind you of some of the afore-mentioned Swiss trio's stuff) and all of what's within the wide spectrum of a drummer's sonic and rhythmical palette. The space around him is smartly and un-obtrusively filled by guitar, bass, hammond parts, layers of electronics and even heavily-manipulated vocal parts, all written by Reuter in a way that complements Mastelotto's ideas while still showing Reuter's training without having to splatter out one single note of what you'd conventionally refer to as a solo. In fact you'll hardly ever hear anything like a regular guitar sound at all, since Reuter's prime pride is his touch-guitar, an instrument with an eight octave pitch range that he complements and interfaces with all his other electronic equipment (that includes what seems to be becoming every live musician's favourite digital performance software-based tool: Abelton Live).
Without getting too technical or too windy, I strongly suggest that you check out this Unsung Records release. The CD also features a video clip (directed by Renee Stieger) that showcases the most drum'n'bass (speaking off...) track on the record. Too bad that nothing of the duo's performance is included in the video.
Also make sure to check out www.patmastelotto.com and www.markusreuter.com.
A great example of musicianship and electro-acoustic rock-electronica.
Feb 03 2006
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Artist: Amen Orchestra
Title: 17 waves
Format: CD
Label: ArT-TeK Records (@)
Rated: *****

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From the beautiful front cover picturing a close-up of a violin with some russian lettering and an elegant western italic logo and album title, I expected something completely different, more along the lines of what Russian artists and composers in the Electroshock records roster usually sound like, instead ArT-TeK Records' artist Amen Orchestra caught me off guard with a fast-paced and crazed breakbeat-driven collage of d'n'b beats and pitch-ridden pads with an ear to classical music, which is used as inspiration, rather than medium. Russian artist Nizhny Novgorod delivers his version of clasically-trained electronic music programming with a shit load of stuff happening at once. Once you get past the frenziness you'll detect subtle orchestra arrangements (which in my opinion could/should have played a greater part in the greater scheme of things) and murky layers of droning dark-ambient influences, and, no matter what, you'll always be left with one of those super-fast-paced rhythm-noise/IDM albums that labels such as Hive or Daft records might have gotten you used to.
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Artist: PRIDE AND FALL
Title: Elements of Silence
Format: CD
Label: Dependent (@)
Distributor: Alive!
Rated: *****

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This Norwegian trio returns with their long awaited second full length release on the rising Dependent label. And some things musically have changed in between for the band. The still have a guitarist on board but the more I listen to this release I must really ask why. Late, with track 6 I can recognize the need to have him in the band – but before? Clear and clean produced Futurepop is the kind and style they do follow here. The track "Border", an energetic dancefloor filler – was already released as a download-only free available from the Dependent website and by the German Download portal Grenzwellen (www.grenzwellen.com). Technically here is nothing to find faults on. Krischan of ROTERSAND is again responsible for a decent mastering work, the arrangements are well produced and recorded – everything is smooth and catchy. But is it me, or does anybody else miss here something? Mostly all of the latest releases out on this label scored high and offered excellent stuff musically. PRIDE AND FALL do obviously follow the style which made VNV Nation big and successful, but finally I come to the result that there is still a big abyss between the original and the followers. Average is maybe the right word to describe this release as a whole – and the throne of (the older) VNV NATION is not in danger. Here is also space for some well worked out instrumental pieces like "Scarred", but also this can not really surprise. This CD walks on almost all tracks on the same decent level of quality – but it’s not that outstanding compared to several other Dependent releases.

Artist: Nox Arcana (@)
Title: Transylvania
Format: CD
Label: Monolith (@)
Rated: *****

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Take a journey through the darkness of Romania, deep in the Carpathia Mountains, where vampires, witches, and werewolves lurk to haunt their prey who hears their echo whispers and beckoning call. The seduction of one's desire to be intoxicated and fall into the mysterium bliss by the sexual touch and kiss from the soulless demons; incubus and succubus. Nox Arcana delivers a visionary and visual effects of gothic beautiful soundscapes that's sinister with orchestrations, melodies very haunting, choirs and well produced eerie sound effects so creepy. A perfect soundtrack that wil go with Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula". Production work brilliant. Overall, the whole album is awesome, the musicianship excellent-melodic beauty mixed with chilling doom-laden darkness. The layer of each track that adds enough dimensions will keep the listener interested. "Transylvania" is a darkly atmospheric with its shadowy grace. The cd features artistry and quotes from Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing, which combines a psychodramatic narrative enhancing the overall superb creation. A timeless quality to have in your cd collection.


1. Transylvania Overture
2. The Voyage
3. Gossamer Mist
4. The Black Coach
5. Sentinels of Stone
6. Into The Shadows
7. Castle Dracula
8. Visitors in the Night
9. Brides to Darkness
10. Grande Masquerade
11. Memento Mori
12. The Howling
13. Nocturne
14. Bats in the Belfry
15. Gothic Sanctum
16. Gypsy Caravan
17. From Dusk Till Dawn
18. Night of the Wolf
19. Echoes from the Crypt
20. Shadow Hunters
21. Lair of the Vampire
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