Music Reviews



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Artist: Isothesis
Title: Stern Und Opium
Format: CD
Label: Steelkraft Manufactory (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of this French artist, but this makes sense when the only other release was a limited edition from almost a decade ago. According to the press sheet, “Isothesis produces deep dronescapes and sound sculptures, ever evolving noise starred pieces, halfway between improvisation and thought structures. "Stern und Opium" is a long term process, a digestion of field recordings and synthetic sources melted into rich and evolving sonic textures. Its compositional approach includes micro and macro structures, blended to create a profound organic feel. This record focuses on ambiances and evocative soundscapes, revealing unique and cinematographic atmospheres.” Fair enough; let’s get into it. “Stern” opens up the disc with the sound of plate tectonics at work. Rocks crumble and crack before all is quiet in a sea of peaceful drone. But all is not still here; rumbling bass undercurrents remind us at times of what we just went though. Next up is “Opium.” If the title is meant to evoke a kind of peaceful, hallucinatory state, it succeeds well. This is a 33 minute kaleidoscope of calm, slowly shifting, swirling done. This is really mellow, but there is a lot going on here with multiple layers coalescing into each other. Overall, this is well worth picking up, but you’ll want to get on it because it is limited to 100 copies. This album weighs in at around 42 minutes.
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Artist: An Infinity Room (@)
Title: White On White
Format: Tape
Label: A Guide To Saints (@)
Rated: *****
The first thing I'd think about when speaking of white on white is...onion! I'd take this wonderful vegetable as a starting point to describe this interesting output by Australian sound artist and composer Julian Day's durational project An Infinity Room. Actually the only similarity against onions is the juxtaposition of somehow distinguishable layers and their "concentric convergence", where the homogenous layers are pure tones (despite its title, I perceived no white noises in the three tracks of "White On White"), which got gradually piled till they generate aural illusions, and the center of such a convergence is listener's ear. No real similarities with other feature of an onion, as far as the psychoacoustic experiment, aimed to render "rooms within rooms" according to Julian own words, won't infer tears of ecstatic joy during the listening experience, he provided. The delicate flow he renders over the three tracks (two of them - "Intercessions" and "Void", my favorite one - last more than 40 minutes, while the central piece - wisely named "Rhetoric" - I'd like to think he found some matching between the embellished emptiness of rhetoric and his sound art -) are aimed to explore the intimate nexus between perception and environment and are fundamentally based on psychoacoustics principles of illusions, rendered by layering of similar or identical frequencies. Tones of the three tracks, composed and recorded in Sidney, are played by identical keyboards, but Julian wisely exploits the illusion of "movement" or variation that can be reached if they got played in unison. Good speakers and an aptly sized space to play them are recommended to enhance these refined drone-like outputs (strictly on tape).
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Artist: Zarkoff & Ikonal
Title: Toxicology EP
Format: 12"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Layered, relentless acid bassline patterns rule the roost on this 3-track EP, complimented by Leftfield-style synth washes and steady, uncomplex techno beats that have one foot in a 1990’s warehouse but still don’t sound old.

The first side is two six-minute tracks. “Side Effects” is a straightforward number, a little Hardfloor-ish but without the bounce, while the second track on the A-side “Dose Response” is a more atmospheric track with a really strong chord progression wafting over the rhythms and giving it a much more filmic feel. Extra percussive elements appear as the melody starts unfolding into daylight in the final couple of minutes of a progressive track that oozes quality.

The second side is the 11-minute “Lifetime Exposure”, and while you’d expect a longer journey and maybe greater diversity from a longer track, in practice it’s mainly just longer- there’s a darker tone, slower changes, but essentially the same format as the other two shorter tracks. Maybe it overstays its welcome just a tad compared to the well-formed tracks on the A.

For those who have forgotten, or who are too young to remember, it’s still true that everybody loves a 303, and these tracks are a tasty reminder.
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Artist: Koyl
Title: Fingerprints
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Koyl’s contribution to Silber’s long-running “5 in 5” series, mini-EPs (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) with five one-minute long songs making a five-minute-long whole, has a loose “five fingers” theme to it, with tracks named after your trigger finger or flipping the bird with your middle finger. I’ll be honest, I don’t hear how this translates to the miniature pieces themselves, but it’s a quaint idea for sure.

Predominantly this is meandering guitar improvisation over some dark and distant drones and rhythmic beds, and it’s expertly done. Even within the space of five minutes, there’s plenty of variety.

“Versus” is a strong intro that could easily have warranted several more minutes on its own, that flows continuously into the slide guitar and faintly Wild West tone of “Pulling The Trigger”. “Flipping The Bird”, with its faintly church-like ambience and relatively cheery loose melody wandering over a warm sustained chord, segues into the inversion of “La Corde Au Cou” as the chord bed turns dark and sinister, before dropping away to allow “Yubitsume” to run as a slightly sweet arpeggio loop that rounds things off nicely.

Other releases in the “5 in 5” series can sometimes feel like sampler items, 1-minute extracts from longer pieces, whereas this release almost completely escapes that problem and manages to create a work which stands up as a strong 5-minute mini-adventure that definitely makes me want to check out further Koyl releases.
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Artist: Antlers Mulm
Title: Give Or Take / In Reverse
Format: 7"
Label: Enfant Terrible (@)
Two of the more upbeat tracks from the “Touring The Moon Bog” album released back in March 2016 get a 7” vinyl outing on Enfant Terrible. Staccato synth notes echoing around in heavily reverberant space, underpinned by gentle and unusual drum programming, form the bed for two pieces of melancholic, atmospheric, loose-structured and subversive electropop that sounds like it’s been recorded in an empty cathedral.

For retro comparisons, it will appeal to fans of OMD’s more experimental work, and the vocal even has hints of a subdued Marc Almond about it, as much in the emotional expression as in the vocal tone- but there’s also a harder-edged, Cabaret Voltaire feel to it. “Give And Take” is more introspective, “In Reverse” a little bit more aggressive, but they make a good pair very appropriate for a 7” outing.
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