Music Reviews



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Artist: Jonty Harrison (@)
Title: Voyages
Format: CD
Label: empreintes DIGITALes (@)
Rated: *****
I imagine that some atheists or rationalists could get captivated, after they'll listen the overlapping of farming animal sounds and field recordings grabbed in some mosque full of praying devouts and in an Italian church while reciting the rosary in a moment of "Espaces caches", the first 14-minutes lasting track of this collection, assembled by an impressive quantity of sound samples, which got premiered on June 7th, 2014 during the Klang! Electroacoustique festival in Montpellier under commission by Maison des arts sonores. Similarly, fans of nautical themes or seaside places could get entranced by a group of tracks, belonging to "Going Places" where many sounds got grabbed nearby harbours and quays (including underwater echoes of the quays and floating strain at their moorings caught near Sidney Opera House, barnacles found in Sidney Harbour, in the surroundings of Great Barrier Reef, and on the beaches of the isle of Corfu - Greece -, recordings of boats, swifts and harbour activities in Corfu and Poros, boats straining taken at the yacht club in Boston, Massachusets) and lovers of Iceland - I met many people devoted to that chilling place in the recent times (hoping it's not a mass phenomenon following the funny way by which Iceland football team used to greet their supporters at the end of matches at the recent European football championship) - would be delighted by the sounds of bubbling waters taken from geothermal pools at Seltun, the buzz of radio cables hanging from Hellissandur radio masts in Snaefellsness overlapping the sound of melting ice and subterranean glacial stream, taken nearby the Solheimajokull glacier. Besides the evocative sonic collages that Professor Jonty Harrison provides in this huge selection, the aspect that could interest in sound explorer like us and most of our readers is the way by which he transplanted field recordings into stereophonic channels, particularly in the above-mentioned "Espaces caches", initially a 30-track tape for multichannel sound system, which was entirely produced and mastered by Joseph Anderson in the first months of 2016 at the Sound Lab of the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media of the University of Washington in Seattle by means of stereophonic Ambisonic UHJ Encoding. The final result of this "transcoding" process is - believe me and my headphones - really impressive, while the most relevant aspect of the 23 tracks by which Jonty split a selection from his massive sound archive, collecting a plenty of recordings grabbed during many journeys all over the world, is the criteria that he mostly adopted to group together those recordings. Most of the tracks manage to assemble events that could be related to similar or sometimes identical phenomenon or cultural happenings, where the aggregating element is mostly aural, and these aural manifestations are similar to colors depicting the same event according to more or less mysterious rules that vary by different cultural environment! For instance, you'll hear bells from four different places (Chartres, Venice, Berlin and Corfu plus the Montaione clock in Tuscany), sounds from four different railway station (Florence, Pisa, Rome and Castelfiorentino in Italy), interlacing of pipes and drums from many different sets and settings (ghaitas in Marrakech, Morocco, piccolo bands parading during the Carnival of Bael in Switzerland, bagpipers in Morelia, Mexico and aural entities such as firecrackers and the noise of coins in offering bowls in a religious procession nearby the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok) in single tracks. Harrison's collages define an engaging way of matching audio travelogues and field recordings.

( trained audiophiles should check these guidelines for a really immersive sound experience: http://www.ambisonictoolkit.net/publications/2016/06/22/harrison-voyages.html )
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Artist: Night Club
Title: Requiem For Romance
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Gato Blanco
This album blends fresh-sounding, post-electroclash pop music that, with the right image, could easily get into the pop charts, with some quite sparse, dark electro production touches that have shades of John Carpenter and hints of late 80’s Depeche Mode about it. It also taps firmly into the modern synthpop vibe and should appeal to fans of Freezepop or Spray who like their lyrics irony-free sometimes- unsurprising given Night Club’s LA base.

The assured steadiness of “Dear Enemy” could easily have been a track from Annie’s first album. “Psychosuperlover” has the vocal tone and production qualities of a Kylie Minogue track, but with darker lyrics that are as close to S&M references as it could do whilst remaining firmly TV-teen-drama-friendly. Night Club have a strong track record of getting tracks placed in TV shows, and the EQ and mastering has certainly got that target in mind, sometimes steering clear of more sinister frequencies.

The bridge section of “Show It 2 Me” adds extra ‘wub wub wub’ which suggests that Night Club are holding back their true colours somewhat and that they are itching to thicken up the beats. All the tracks are radio-edit length and some of them are crying out for epic, grandiose club remixes. At thirty minutes and thirty seconds all in, it’s not the most generous of packages. Well-formed, but small.

Overall it’s rather short, and slightly too familiar-sounding, but it’s a polished bit of electro-synth-pop, lyrically dressed up as darkwave but actually just a little on the light side.
Oct 05 2016
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Artist: Kuedo
Title: Slow Knife
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
“Slow Knife” is a deeply expert blend of super-mellow filmic house music, a smattering of darker Burial-esque trap and dubstep flavours, and full-on ambience and melodic drones. Kuedo are a perfect fit for the Planet Mu label and this album lives up to the quality standard the label maintains.

The title track has an epic electronic ambience and simple melody to it very reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre. “Floating Forest” is not unreminiscent of Deep Forest tracks, and I mean that as a compliment.

The whole work could easily be the soundtrack to a rather melancholic film, particularly in pieces like “Approaching”, extremely evocative of wide plains and loneliness, and “Broken Fox” with its sense of a distant threat. The second half is deliberately broader and darker than the first, stepping firmly into science fiction territories before the final two tracks ground us again with more organic, Earth-like noises.

At forty-six minutes long, this is one of those albums where the only fault you can level at it is that it’s too short.
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Artist: Controlled Bleeding
Title: Body Samples
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Artoffact
Controlled Bleeding’s “Body Samples” is an 88-minute 2LP collection, reissuing twenty-five sonic ideas from 1985 that are primarily angst-ridden discordant industrial noise and hardcore experimental screeches. As the title hints at, this is a smorgasbord of different short ideas, and the running order of them feels almost random, sometimes uncomfortable, settling into nothing that could be thought of as a pattern. Even the track titles, when “(extra track)” and “Intro” both halfway through the first disc, imply a wilful and deliberate attempt to make this release challenging on every level.

While the press release describes “Body Samples” as “at time less abrasive” than Controlled Bleeding’s earlier cassette-only works, this is occasionally true. Tracks like “II” are effortless ambience in the Eno tradition. However the statement is also, sometimes, exceptionally untrue. There are segments and ideas on here that are cacophony squared, like white noise mating with industrial sound effects libraries on a building site.

Heavy use of stereo separation allows you to self-mix the chaos by favouring one channel over the other, with (subjectively) a possible slight emphasis towards rhythmic mania on the left channel and higher-pitched, nightmarish-guitar-solo style elements on the right. With this you can begin to distinguish some of the more accomplished and unusual electronic effects and samples that otherwise begin to play second fiddle to the sometimes constant dark rock and guitar-feedback-like drones.

“Rust Bag” has strong hits of the Radiophonic Workshop about it and sounds like it’s sorely tempted to break into the Doctor Who theme music at any moment. Don’t be fooled by titles like “Lung Dub” or “Lung Beats” into thinking there are reggae or house influences- there absolutely aren’t!

This is a largely structure-free collection of mid-1980’s bleeding-edge experiments into the dark underbelly of anti-music. It’s a fantastic curio but almost too piecemeal to be called an album.
Oct 04 2016
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Artist: Oval
Title: Popp
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Uovooo
Distributor: Anost
This is a stupendously busy album, not a second goes by without a stutter, a glitch or a keyframe. The initial volley of “ai” (all the tracks have two-letter names) threatens a relentless assault bordering on Venetian Snares territory, but things settle down fairly quickly, and by the time you reach “ku”, your heartbeat has adapted to running at 60bpm, 120bpm and 240bpm all at the same time and the atmosphere, vibes and mood of the arrangements start to shine through.

“Sa” is the ingredients of a moody, Delerium-esque ballad diced through a musical blender and then tastefully arranged in a nouveau cuisine arrangement. It’s successor “Lo” takes on a more aggressive, driving rhythm and defies you to call this a chill-out glitch album. “My” manages to sound very fresh yet feel like a tribute to Todd Edwards’ remixes at the same time.

Ultimately though, these eleven tracks are very consistent- too consistent. The same patterns, the same tempos, the same ingredients crop up on every track, only the quantities seem to change, and despite only being 43 minutes long in total, you do get left with a slight feeling that the original ideas have been stretched too thinly across this work.

Oh and I can’t stand the cover, which is a hammer in a plastic bag- I assumed it was a razor but had to be corrected- except that from a distance it looks much more like a used condom in a plastic bag. It isn’t. The artwork’s both ugly and a very poor fit for the music.
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