Music Reviews

Artist: Christos Fanaras (@)
Title: Impermanence
Format: CD
Label: Adaadat (@)
Adaadat, the London-based independent recording label, has recently released Impermanence, a new CD of ambient music by Christos Fanaras. Recording under the name of Jack Shirt, he has recorded and released seven previous CDR albums and is currently a member of Moon Ra and Masters. Christos has also played bass guitar in the group Agaskodo Teliverek, drums for Temper Temper and has a long list of associations with contemporary musicians and bands. Impermanence is a solo effort and consists of six sections connected into a single track that runs for 44 minutes. Each of the sections has an individual character but there is an overall pattern that emerges as the piece unfolds. The piece begins with a low hum and a soft, funerary organ melody. The volume builds and the feeling is solemn, brooding and mysterious. The low tones dominate as the higher notes in the melody become shorter and transient until they become overtaken by the drone below. The loudness ultimately subsides allowing the second section to begin with the soft sound of rainfall and a clear declarative guitar line that brings some forward movement. Now the organ arcs above this with a quiet, uncertain feel that builds in volume as the section progresses. The purposeful guitar eventually becomes buried by a swirling organ accompanied by loud, unsettling propeller sounds that end the section abruptly. Impermanence proceeds in this fashion, each section beginning with a comfortable flow and feel that is quietly familiar, but eventually becoming submerged in louder and more chaotic textures. Section 3 has a beautiful organ line that has a church-like, medieval sound, and this is eventually intruded upon and consumed by a distorted guitar. Section 5 features an optimistic dance-like melody that generates an exotic, optimistic feel that is slowly engulfed in a low rumbling sound. This pattern of the familiar being overwhelmed by the alien is repeated throughout the different sections and effectively makes the artistic statement of Impermanence. The final minutes have a futuristic feel and a sense of inevitability that point to coming change. If you take your ambient music straight up and with a definite point of view, Impermanence will be worth a listen.
Artist: Deadburger Factory (@)
Title: la fisica della nuvole
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Snowdonia/Goodfellas (@)
Rated: *****
First I should say that I probably shouldn't have been the one to review this, not because I can't grok the music (most of it anyway) but because Italian is a language I have no proficiency in, and to fully appreciate this, it's likely essential. (I know we have some paisanos here at Chain D.L.K.; Marc, Mario, Vito.) Be that as it may, Deadburger Factory is actually Italian avant-rock band Deadburger, with some help from their friends on this triple-disc deluxe box set, hence the 'factory' added to the name, as a musical experimental laboratory of sorts. When I say deluxe, I definitely mean deluxe- a neat gray-lavender box with artwork by cartoonist Paul Bacilieri (also different works by him on the individual CDs), a 64 page booklet with lyrics (in Italian of course), color photos of the band, more Bacilieri artwork, and other odd and interesting stuff, plus a foldout mini-poster of Bacilieri's cartoon art from the three individual CDs assembled for continuity. This must have cost a fistful of Euros to put together, and having no idea what it retails for, nor how big a following the band has in Italy, I don't know if they'll ever recoup their investment, but for some, it's sure to become one of those 'must haves'. Even the one-sheet accompanying this is in Italian, so I had to go elsewhere (several elsewheres) searching for information to be able to convey to you, the potential listener.

The title ' 'la fisica della nuvole' translated means 'The Physics of Clouds'. Each of the three CDs also has its own title CD1- 'Puro Nylon 100%' (sort of self-explanatory); CD2- 'Microonde/Vibroplettri' (Microwave/Vibrating Plectrums); CD3- 'la fisica della nuvole' (The Phyics of Clouds'), all representing different aspects of this work. CD1 is easily the most diverse of the three. It combines elements of rock, classical, jazz, electronic, spoken word (most in Italian), avant-garde, downtempo trip hop, and probably a few I missed. Not all at the same time mind you, but sometimes. Comprised of 8 tracks composed by Vittorio Nistri, Allessandro Casini and Tony Vivona, there is a wide variety of moods, and sonics explored here, so it almost seems cinematic. One minute you're listening to a nifty distorted guitar riff (joined by violin, ala King Crimson) with heavy acoustic rock drums, the next, some gentle electronics and a string sextet, interrupted by some dissonant processed electronics. Some of the tracks on this CD are their own variations on Erik Satie's 'Socrates'. Although I found it a bit uneven, there were enough highlights to warrant multiple replays.

CD2- 'Microonde/Vibroplettri' is something completely different. The most experimental CD of the three, it is split between Vittorio Nisti's sonic microwave experiments (using a microwave oven as the primary sound source) and Alessandro Casini's vibrating plectrum experiments (using vibrating sex toys to motivate his guitar). Each of them has four tracks on this CD. First track, 'My Life Inside the Microwave' begins with some high frequency drones and not long turns into a squalling assault of noise. 'Strategy of the Rat' is an intriguing rhythmic piece; a bit of hypnotic electronica with a low voiced melody and an arrhythmic scraping sound. Noise surfaces as element as well, along with an occasional dinging bell. This is way cool! How all this was generated from a microwave, is beyond me, but the creativity here is simply astounding. 'Magnetron' is a short electronic piece employing reverse-attack technique (backwards samples) with other rapid little electronic rhythms, seeming transitional. 'Micronauta' is strange psychedelic ambience, just too hard to describe; quite multifaceted and intriguing. It ends with the dinging of a bell, quite possibly signifying the rat it the microwave'¦is done. 'The Dentist of Tangier' is an odd Middle Eastern flavored piece with a quirky rhythm and eccentric guitar. 'Heart of Rana' is a weird noise-rock piece that shows you just how bizarre things can get when sex toys are applied to the guitar. With dildo-neck slide guitar, this style of delta blues would have Elmore James turning over in his grave. Beefheart might dig it though. 'Dr. Quartermass, I Presume' features an undercurrent of quirky electronic rhythm with abstract noisy electric guitar on top. Concluding with 'Plowing the Fields of Glass', a repetitive guitar melody forms the pedal off which other guitar sounds (sustained low notes, tremolo, squealing sustained lead) play. It comes off as the least experimental and least rewarding track on this CD.

CD3- 'The Physics of Clouds' is yet again something completely different. This is where Deadburger comes together as a band, with a more cohesive sound, if such a thing is possible for them. At this time the band lineup should be introduced ' Simone Tilli ' trumpet, lead vocals (Simone is a guy by the way, think of him as Simon); Alessandro Casini ' guitar (acoustic guitar on this disc, although I swear some of it sounds electric); Carlo Sciannameo ' fretless bass; Giula Nuti- viola; Irene Orrigo ' flute, vocals; Pino Gulli ' drums; Massimo Giannini ' percussion, vocals; Vittorio Nistri ' keyboards, loops. There are a couple of other musicians involved, but let's not get carried away in the credits. This is supposed to be the 'organic' CD and for the most part it is, but electronics do creep into the sound processing, and electric bass and keyboards (unless you're strictly playing acoustic piano, which Nistri isn't) are electronic. Be that as it may, this CD has more of a band sound with continuity throughout. The opening track begins with spoken word (in Italian, of course) and melancholy strings with a little flute, clarinet and bass, followed by guitar and viola carrying the melody. It's a bit reminiscent of In The Nursery. A little rattling percussion then the band launches into a semi-psychedelic modal trip that reminds me of Gong, sans Daevid Allen's Flying Teapots and Pothead Pixies, perhaps with a touch of Jade Warrior.
Most all of the lyrics to the songs are actually sung (rather than spoken as on the first CD), once again in Italian, getting a bit closer to mainstream. 'Amber' is an exotic superb piece that could have gone for twice its length and I'd have been very happy. Jazzy, trippy, exotic, a wonderful blending of so many cool elements. The band rocks out on the next number ' 'Bruciando il Piccolo Padre' (By the Burning Little Father ?) with some very frenetic vocals by Tilli, and bodacious drumming by Pino Gulli. 'Cose Che Rompono' is a bouncy number and the closest thing to a traditional song so far. After the mostly placid 'Wormhole', the band heads off into Legendary Pink Dots territory with 'Il Mare E' Scomparso'. The downtempo 'Deposito 423' features some very rich musical interplay between all the musicians, and very memorable vocal line. I don't know exactly why, but this track made me think of Zappa. The finale, 'C'E' Ancora Vita Su Marte' ('There is Still Life on Mars') gives some of the lead vocal over to Giulia Sarno and it's nice to hear an upfront female voice for a change. The final few lines ' 'There is Still Life on Mars' are the only lyrics sung in English. Maybe if there had been more, I would had have liked it better, but overall, this CD was very enjoyable.

In conclusion, this is music for the adventurous, those seeking something beyond the boundaries of the conventional, and genres be damned. This boxed set is a very mixed bag; there were parts I didn't much care for, parts I absolutely loved, and also some that I merely though was okay. Europeans will probably dig this more than Americans in general, partly because of the language thing, and partly because Americans tend to get confused, disoriented, and disaffected when presented with so much diversity. But- if you think you really have eclectic tastes, you should give Deadburger Factory a shot. Your biggest challenge may be actually acquiring it.
Artist: Richard Moult & David Colohan (@)
Title: Hexameron
Format: CD
Label: Time Released Sound (@)
Rated: *****
This assay of graphical and musical art from Time Released Sound got signed by Richard Moult and David Colohan, two young Irish musicians from Galway-based neo folk collective United Bible Studies. I think that the artwork of digital version with that "industralized quotation" from Gustave Dore''s "The Deluge" is a more appropriate image than those swatches from a 100 years-old book about mysterious 15th century printer and illustrator Anton Sorg for the deluxe edition of "Hexameron" in order to let listener envision their style. Named after the term which refers to 6 working days for the creation of our planet by God on Genesis, which got mirrored by the number of tracks as well as by a steady "mystical" tension of their sound, these guys glides along sugarcoated expanded piano melodies, cherubic choirs, occasional drones, placid guitar riffs and lukewarm tonal vaporization, where that vague sense of frail beauty got emphasized with a touch of tragedy and inescapable austerity. To be honest, some moments when the driving musical forces of this record (piano and guitar) reciprocally stress melodic phrases with single chords, which could surmise similar dynamics from melodic prog-rock or fusion stylistical fields, are not so original, but the emotional textures they manage to weave are sometimes enchanting: the gradual ascension on the fifth tracks, the fade-in by which instruments make an entrance on the stage of the second track, which let me think about the breathtaking show of mist sea at dawn on the Isle of Skye, where Moult started to record this album on January 2013, and the occasional dramatic eruptions by Colohan's alto saxophone mark some of my favorite moments of this musical palingenesis.
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Artist: Frontal (@)
Title: Lass uns Tanzen
Format: CD
Label: Records (@)
Rated: *****
Frontal is a German old-school EBM-duo consisting of Alex Wobig (Voice and Programming) and Denis Rehm (Live Drums) and they have been part of the flat-haired EBM-scene for several years now. After starting with a self-released album they could join the ranks of the legendary Electric Tremor label, while they now got signed to 'Lass uns Tanzen' is their 4th official album-release and this duo can be sorted musically into the same drawer like Der Prager Handgriff in their early years, meets Pouppee Fabrikk meets Jager 90. So you shouldn't be too much surprised if you'll get a pure, nostalgic and uncomplicated EBM-album with the typical straight kick- and snare-work, the monotonous synth-bass-sequences leading almost the whole music-outfit, plus the raging EBM-shouter with a deep timbre. All tracks are danceable produced with the expected 4-on-the-floor-attitude, so further musically surprises in their arrangements are reduced to a minimum. Almost all tracks provide German lyrics which deal with typical themes of the young 'get-hard-be-strong' EBM-youth like the mostly unsuccessfully hunt for girls, cars, beer, etc. One track finally breaks a bit out this known formula: 'i-Generation' offers more synth-pads thrown into the mix so that I tend to compliment this one out of the mass. Two remix contributions by Orange Sector and a complete reinterpretation by Jager 90 are closing this album, but both do not match the better original tracks. What generally impresses with Frontal is their pleasantly-relaxed expression of their music. They are far away from offering pseudo-aggressive shouts or nervousness in their arrangements. What disturbs is the fact that you shouldn't expect anything more demanding, be it innovation in their music or a lyrically content on more serious themes. It is ideal stuff to warm-up your next body-party, but it doesn't suit to every possibility as background noise.
Artist: Kangding Ray (@)
Title: Solens Arc
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Raster-Noton (@)
Distributor: Kompakt
Rated: *****
You could almost envision the contraction of the muscles of an athlete, his gradual perspiration or his challenge against gravity since the initial "Serendipity March", as if such a slowing down could display some hidden secrets of universal forces. You can have the impression to perceive the movement of every single air particle while a bullet slices through the space that is between its origin and its target on "Transitional Ballistics" or understand the vector space of a bird's flight while listening to "L'Envol". The concept by this awesome record from David Letellier aka Kangding Ray seems to be focused on the attempt of gleaning the essence of movement by a translation of trajectories and parables into sounds by following any resounding object that got launched by laptop, drum machines and synths as if they were cannonballs whose infinite rifle range got mirrored by the gradual "blossoming" of synth arpeggios and melodic dust into enzymatic broken rhythms and deconstructed rave anthems. Each of four Solens arc, one for each side of the album, has been splitted into three phases and wondrously cleaves to such a concept by progressive polymerizations of industrial techno engines - the first stage - into granular entities - the second stage -, which vanish over ether - the third and final level -. My favorite ones are the third arc ("Amber Decay/Apogee/History Of Obscurity") as its evolution sounds like a sort of epic apokatastasis to my ears and the fourth one on D side ("Crystal/Transitional Ballistics/Son"), where the emotional tension wisely reaches the highest peaks by going through stylistical environments which bridges 70ies horror movies soundtracks, industrial techno, broken noises and sidereal drone-ambient. Labelling this release as a masterpiece is not a backslapping at all!
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