Music Reviews



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Artist: Gustaf Hildebrand
Title: Primordial Resonance
Format: CD
Label: Cyclic Law (@)
Rated: *****
I’m beginning to really like Cyclic Law as a label. I have reviewed a few of their discs and they have all been excellent. This one is no different. Their releases are the ones that you know that you should pick up eventually but you never get around to it – this is a problem because they are putting out amazing dark ambient soundscape material. As usual with Cyclic Law releases, this one comes nicely packaged in an oversized cardstock cover with dark visuals. Nicely packaged, now on to the music. This disc is a good addition to the pantheon of dark ambient releases. What makes this release interesting is the noisiness of it. For example, "Ruins of a Failed Utopia" features chanting layered over deep drones and clanging metal. For me, the standout track on this disc was "Post Oblivion Fields" – synth drones with metal bells and chimes interspersed. The only track that I did not really enjoy was "The Hollow Structures," which features a baby crying angrily. Some people may like that kind of thing, but I prefer my soundscapes without angry children. This is not dark ambient that fades into the background; it demands to be acknowledged. Because most people like comparisons, the best way to describe this album is as the middle ground between Lustmord’s "The Monstrous Soul" and Inade – not quite as noisy as Inade but with all of the heavy drones of Lustmord. Also, for those of you who enjoyed Terra Sancta’s "Aeon," you should enjoy this disc as well. It's heavy without becoming too oppressive, which is a tough line to walk. However, Hildebrand manages to accomplish this feat, maintaining well the tension between noise and drone. So if you like your soundscapes with some noise, this is a good album to pick up.
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Artist: Magicicada (@)
Title: Everyone is Everyone
Format: CD
Label: Public Guilt (@)
Rated: *****
I had never heard of Magicicada before receiving this disc in the mail. Upon opening the packaging, you will find a photo of something I can’t really describe (maybe the underside of a crab?) and extensive liner notes which can also be found on the band’s website. The liner notes are pretty informative - here’s a sample: "4. I Demand My Fucking Cloud: Guitar, found objects, contact mics on faulty electrical lines, shruti box, voice, mics out the window, MARTA, Meredith reading in the corner, and Rob Clemens on 'inside your skull' keyboard. This was one of those days where everything just worked. Recorded in one take. The title comes from when Rob & me were driving about and for some reason, he yelled, "I DEMAND MY FUCKING CLOUD!!!" out the window, which is just such a great thing to say for no reason, ya know?" If this sounds interesting, you’ll probably enjoy the disc.

Overall, this is one weird disc, but I like it a lot. It’s not quite noise, but definitely out there – I suppose one could consider it "experimental." The nice thing about the disc is that the sound is constantly shifting and evolving. There is also a lot going on in the music. The tracks range from ambience to all out noisiness. Plus you end up hearing Steve Brand (Augur) on zurna (a woodwind instrument) – what’s not to like about that? Probably my favorite track on the disc was "For the Father," which had a nice noisy drone going which sort of reminded me of Hafler Trio (Kill the King).

The only track that didn’t really work for me was "Well Below." The music was not as interesting as the other pieces and the vocals were annoying after a while. But overall, this is a good disc with a lot of variety. This would be a good introduction to experimental music – it’s a bit more accessible than most without compromising the qualities that make it interesting.
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Artist: Les Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites
Title: Friesengeist – Part 2
Format: CD
Label: Musea (@)
Rated: *****
I had never heard of this artist or the person behind it, Julien Ash. This is part 2, but alas, I do not have part 1, so I have no way of telling how it compares. Nicely packaged, but the liner notes could be more extensive. For example, I really like the woman’s voice on some of the tracks, but there are four different people credited with vocals as well as one person credited with "ghost voice." If I had to classify this, I would put file it under neo-classical. The press sheet states that "his works evoke Michael Nyman’s style, without forgetting Pascal Comelade’s or Jean-Philippe Goude’s universes."Because this kind of stuff is difficult to review, I’ll try something a bit different. After a few listenings, I listened to the track and wrote a play by play action – here goes: Track 1 – Starts off with what sounds like a child singing, blends then turns to nice piano.Track 2 – Piano, guitar, and a woman singing in French.Track 3 – Piano with violin, kicks in with some drumming. Sort of a Muslimgauze feel to it, which fades out just as it was getting enjoyable back to piano and guitar.Track 4 – This is a bit odd – the singing is back but almost reminds me of a weird mix of pop and goth violin. Doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the first 3 tracks. I like the woman’s voice though. Then shifts into a different kind of track about 4.5 minutes in, as if they decided to put two different songs on the same track. The staccato violin plucking on this one starts to wear on you after a while, but then about 6 minutes in, we’re back to the original feel of the track. Track 5 – Back to piano and guitar. Not bad easy listening, but there are a few instances of static interspersed, which is nice. Bells at the end is nice, but almost doesn’t fit with the previous track.Track 6 – More nice neo-classical.Track 7 – At 15:34, this is the longest disc on the CD. Guitars and drums kind of remind me of old Durruti Column, which is never a bad thing. But then at 4:45 in, it abruptly stops, changes gears, goes to piano with spoken male vocals. Then at 7:45, it shifts gears again, loses the vocals and brings in some bells/brass percussion into the mix. I really like this segment. Track 8 – OK, but the chorus of people singing doesn’t quite work for me. Track 9 – Pretty good piano track.The main problem I had with the disc is that the tracks seem to go on past what they should. It is as if they arbitrarily decided a length for a track, but when the piece had been completed and come up short, they added pieces of another track. Don’t get me wrong – disjointed can be good. It just doesn’t seem to work in this case too well, probably partly because of my own classical training and partly because it seems like the sonic equivalent to watching television with someone who changes the channel just as things are getting interesting. I think that there are a lot of good things happening here, but unfortunately the band switches gears just as you’re getting into it.Overall, this is pleasant listening. With the exception of a couple of tracks, it would fit right in with the rest of your classical collection but nothing too groundbreaking on this disc. For my tastes, the segments that were the most interesting were the ones where they incorporated a variety of sounds. The piano / violin combo just doesn’t do much for me. Your mileage may vary.
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Artist: DAVID WELLS
Title: op.3
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage
Rated: *****
Scottish soundmaker David Wells has run one of most interesting cdr labels of the last few years, The Locus of Assemblage, which is now sadly over due to his relocation. Luckily, his own musical activity is going to continue, having recently released a collaborative split 3" with Paul Bradley (on Twenty Hertz, review soon), and a "Droneworks" ep before that. "op.3" has been his first self-released work, and, to be honest, it's also my favourite one. Not that the following ones were bad (quite the opposite, actually), but this darker, monolithic track is surely my cup of tea; I've been listening to it quite a lot lately, and it's always a nice 20 minutes to sink in. Wells only, or mostly, uses environmental recordings of water, and, I venture, some natural drones highlighted by reverbs and equalization: a minimal set of elements, but arranged with great skill. After its first more subdued half, the piece slowly billows to a powerful bass-heavy drone; not unlike many "ambient" untitled works by López, surely the best comparison for this work along with mnortham's darker recordings.
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anymore
Artist: ORIGAMI SUBTROPIKA
Title: Ultimatum
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage
Rated: *****
This 3" cdr has been out for a while, but it'd be wise to get one of the last copies before it becomes unavailable, due to the recent demise of The Locus of Assemblage. The Puerto Rican branch of the Origami empire is formed by Jorge Castro, of Cornucopia fame, plus one mysterious A182 - possibly Castro himself or one of his tools, but that's only my guess. To quote the press release, the ep "is based on US weapon testing in the waters surrounding Puerto Rico and the condition 'Vibra-Acustica' which has afflicted the local population", and the sounds it contains are quite scary indeed. "Ultimatum A" begins with piercing high-end tones, abruptly exploding into a wall of white noise. The piece later caves in, leaving only a disquieting aftermath of scattered particles and barely audible drones, elements which are further explored in "Ultimatum B", a perfectly arranged composition of audio debris. Not to be mistaken for a one-off divertissement, this is a great record of destructive but eventually elegant noise, which reminds of similar incursions by Duncan, López or Ilios.
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