Music Reviews



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Artist: SHIFTS
Title: Vertonen
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
One more chapter in Shifts' "Vertonen" series, which I think is an ongoing project. Veteran Dutch artist Frans de Waard really needs no introduction, considering his activities as a performer (Kapotte Muziek, Goem, Bee-queen...), label-owner (Staalplaat, and now Brom-Brom and Plinkity-Plonk) and writer/networker (Vital Weekly). The abstract blue/grey painting on the cover, by de Waard himself, is an apt visual counterpart to this 19' piece of subdued minimalism, a quietly changing, apparently static drone. I think he's using processed guitar sounds, and I'd actually compare this to almighty Main. A kind of post-industrial ambient which nowadays is not all the rage (has it ever been so?), so it's all the more enjoyable to listen to it.
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Artist: VIÍN & MEM
Title: Onset
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
If the suicidal painting on the cover wasn't clear enough, Viön & Mem deliver some convincing anxiety in the opening track of their ep, where a disquieting low-end drone is gradually sunk, like in a magnetic storm, beneath concrete sounds, a sort of looped larsen, bleeps and glitches, eventually collapsing into digital debris. A strong piece, which unfortunately gives way, in track 2 and 3, to much less interesting harsh noise (with crushed melodic samples in tk 3 to add some variety) - while fierce and well-managed, it's a sort of let down after the initial intriguing crescendo. Track 4 is a paranoid concrete piece, juxtaposing quasi-raw recordings of steps, environmental echoes and dripping rain: effective, though not really memorable. A decent post-industrial work, with plenty of good ideas, but suffering a bit from its lack of coherence (which could actually be a virtue for some).
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Artist: PAUL BRADLEY
Title: Immure
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: The Locus of Assemblage (@)
Rated: *****
I don't know much about UK artist Paul Bradley, except that he has recently released a full length on Twenty Hertz ("All that was"), a collaboration with fellow droner Colin Potter (of Nurse With Wound fame), and is going to share a split/collaborative cd with David Wells, again on The Locus of Assemblage. All of which I wish I had listened to, because this 3" cd, on the successful mini-assemblage series, is brilliant... Bradley plays sombre isolationist ambient, which perfectly fits with the title and graveyard cover picture: certainly dark, but solemn rather than bleak. Track 1 opens with jangling bell sounds, giving way to a low-frequency drone; an apt introduction to 12'30'' track 2, definitely the core piece of the ep, with shifting frequencies, cavernous basses and subdued environmental recordings adding to the menacing atmosphere. Track 3 is a shorter piece, closing the work with fading drones - leaving you craving for more, which is honestly not that frequent with records like these. An inspired, well-constructed work, mandatory if you like artists like Lull, Thomas Koener and the whole '90's isolationist niche.
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Artist: NAMNAMBULU
Title: Distances
Format: CD
Label: Nilaihah Records (@)
Rated: *****

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First released the last year thanks to Infacted Records, Namnumbulu's first album DISTANCES has been released for the States by Nilaihah Records which added to this new version a track ("Now or never - Dopamin mix") and the video of "Memories". Coming from Switzerland, Namnambulu is a duo formed by Vasi Vallis and Henrik Iversen. The band's sound has already been paragoned to bands like VNV Nation, Assemblage 23 or Camouflage (I'd add also the Apoptygma Berzerk of the "Welcome To Earth" period). The tracks generally are based on melody (thanks to Henrik's deep vocals) and on rhythm (only the closing "Apart" is a ballad a la Depeche Mode). The web formed by layers of sequencered synthetic sounds duet with the melody forming a good mixture of danceable future pop. There isn't a best track as the twelve tracks equally have a good dose of melody and rhythm. At the moment the sound of the band's hasn't reached its top, talking about personality but DISTANCES is a good first album which will be able to make the band gain a certain following.
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Artist: Strange Boutique
Title: The Collection: 1988-1994
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Rated: *****

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Fronted by Monica Richards (Faith & The Muse) back in the 1980's-1990's in D.C., this "punk" band is heralded as the "best kept secret" of the 'scene' in it's day. During Strange Boutique's celebrated stretch, they released one EP, three full length albums, two singles and one live album. They amassed a loyal underground following, perfected their onstage presence, and honed their distinctive sound. They also toured Europe with Killing Joke. I first heard of Strange Boutique with my exposure to Faith & The Muse, which most of you know is Monica and William Faith (Christian Death and other projects), and often wondered what Monica's vocals would sound like fronting a punk band. As it turns out I don't find this as much punk as I do post-punk goth-rock for the 80's American scene. To me the most obvious comparison with the overall sound of Strange Boutique would have to be Souixsie & The Banshees as there are many similar qualities to the musical construction and if you've heard Monica's vocals you will comprehend both the similarities and differences. I'm very happy that Metropolis Records decided to release this compilation composed of songs from every Strange Boutique album and also some hard to find material, which as the CD cover states, displays a full spectrum of their work to new listeners as well as some gems fro the long-ordained. An excellent collection for those of us who somehow missed this excellent project back in the time when it was previously available. Monica Richards is an amazing vocal talent well worth the ears of artistic minds.
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