Music Reviews



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Artist: Stephen Vitiello + Molly Berg (@)
Title: Between You And The Shapes You Take
Format: CD
Label: 12K (@)
Rated: *****
An anonymous listener of the inital demo recording of the second collaborative album by Richmond based musicians and sound artists Stephen Vitiello and Molly Berg said: "I've fallen face first into a machine that erases the memories of an ended relationship as if it were a sound instead of a real life that fell in love with the girl again in the end". I'm pretty sure that these words managed to get a few smiles out of the authors of this sonic gem, which tunefully overlapped the gentle vocals of Molly Berg, who often adds clarinet and thin percussions as well, and (acoustic and baritone) guitar, modular synthesizer, loops and measured processing by Stephen Vitiello, whose work - named after a verse of the 32nd stanza of Wallace Stevens' poem "The Man with the Blue Guitar" (in turn partially inspired by Picasso's "The Old Guitarist") - could persuade Micheal O.Stagman to update his essay "Checklist of Musical Compositions Relating to Stevens" by means of an afterword. Unlike their previous collaborative release "the Gorilla Variations" which was recorded in Vitiello's office at school, "Between You And The Shapes You Take" was recorded in a proper studio; each recording session is the result of edited improvisations, which according to Stephen's words came without any proper score: "Things tend to go best when Molly and I don't speak beforehand or plan anything for the recording beyond a time to meet and to begin. We'll play for as long as we can and generally find that the beginnings and endings are implied in the performance.". Even if this album could sound vaguely melancholic, the main features of their music consists of a sensuous binding between idyllic suggestions, imaginative exfoliations and wobbling ethereal morphing so that listener's imagination could produce figments which are other than eraser machines. For instance, Molly's angelic hums over stretched and reversed tones, whistles and noises which are similar to the noise a bark makes when it got stripped off on the initial "From Here", which sound reprised later on "Recap" where the violin by Hahn Rowe - former member of Hugo Largo - is more clearly audible, could make you envisage a wood-nymph while getting out of the tree she was resting in, while the sweeet tonal paste which got blended by Molly's warbling (almost an all in one with her whistles and gentle guitar plucking while rendering a sort of a gradual swooming) on the following "Back Again" will make you imagine saccharine resins getting out of the tree while that nymph finishes her meioisis. Each element of this "orchestra" sounds somehow spotlighted in many moments of the album: for instance Molly's astonishing voice reaches the most entrancing pinnacles on tracks like "Voice Loopsize", processed guitar prevails on other elements on the heady liquefaction of "Easy Travel" or the effulgent "Five Was 5" and clarinet (together with a set of impressive noises which could remind the noise of rubbing on wet gum or the popping of electric flyswatter) shines by shaded nuances on "Clarinet Assembly", while Stephen's baritone guitar stands out on "Baritone Final" when Molly just emits feeble lulling hums. It's going to make you lapse into lovely daydreaming.
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anymore
Artist: Distel
Title: Ultra 2012
Format: Tape
Label: Belaten (@)
Rated: *****
I already had the chance to talk about Distel when the last year they released their debut album on Enfant Terrible. They for sure are inspired by early electronic industrial music but they have their peculiar way to deal with synth noises and stuff which make of them kinda unique. This tape released by Belaten, see the Dutch duo coming back with five interpretations of Mekanik Kommando's songs (Mekanik Kommando was a New Wave band from Nijmegen, Netherlands. It was founded in 1980 by two members of Zelek. After their third album which was released by EMI, they started their own record label: Rosebud Records. In 1988 the band split up due to musical differences. Some of the members started Guler and later on Ulanbator. The others went on as The Use Of Ashes) and one new track. This is the story: they got contacted for the first of four Ultra2012 events held across four Dutch cities in 2012. Performers were asked to in some way pay homage to the original Ultra movement of the late 70's and early 80's and Distel choose to do so by covering five songs from Mekanik Kommando's debut LP "It Would Be Quiet In The Woods If Only A Few Birds Sing" from 1981. The Mekanik Kommando's tracks in the hands of Distel have been turned from experimental minimal synth tunes into evil invocations with noisy drones layers on the background with pulsating electronic analog drumming and filtered cold vocals. The result is fascinating and disturbing and once again they have confirmed themselves a great discover. The closing original track "Onde" has been used as a sort of theme song for their performance at the event in Nijmegen and is a short melodic industrial track that catch the attention for its horror atmospheres.
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anymore
Artist: Athana / Stavanger Symphonic Orchestra / Stewart Copeland (@)
Title: Athana Symphonic Experience
Format: CD + DVD
Label: SSO
Rated: *****
As I wrote on the review of the latest Athana's album "Paviljon", the last year on March, they played live with Stewart Copeland (yes, him!), as the Athana Symphonic Experience. Now, we have a Blu-ray/CD release that document that experience but let's start from the beginning. Back on 2008, the Norwegian city of Stavenger was along with Liverpool, the Cultural cities of Europe. That, made available a certain amount of money to use for cultural events. Athana thought that it would be a great thing to play with the local symphonic orchestra and they had a connection, since their bass player Oyvind Grong also plays the tuba with them. Since the company Electrocompaniet added some other funds, they thought that they would have make the event even bigger, so when they got hold of Stewart Copeland's e-mail, they tried to check with the man to see if he was interested into a collaboration. Fortunately, he accepted and on March 2013 the 3rd they made a gig at the Stavanger's concert hall Zetlitz. With the help of Helge Sunde and Reid Gilje who took care of the orchestral arrangements, the trio played seven particular versions of Athana's tracks. In my previous Athana's reviews I already pointed out how they are able to create a convincing mix of jazz, ambient and experimental music. Well, the Athana Symphonic Experience, thanks to the orchestra, takes that experience to a new level as the strings and the blows enhance that cosmic effect created by the band's suites. This is concerning the sound's structure and the atmosphere created. Apart from this, we should talk about the apport that Copeland gave to the whole sound. He's one of my favorite rock drummers. I like the way he hits the cymbals and the drums by creating hundreds of little sounds creating colors by using sounds. This release is a pleasure to listen to and to watch (at the end of the performance the "gang" is joined by two modern dancers) and the way it has been directed is making you enjoy the experience as it's balanced, offering details of Alf Terje Hana guitarism, Copeland's drumming, orchestra elements as well as the whole stage.
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Artist: Halo Manash (@)
Title: Wesieni Wainajat
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
The small Finnish label Aural Hypnox gained a reputation among followers of the most arcane side of dark-ambient and ritual music by focusing on the outputs of the Helixes collective and after a period of partial blackout of transmissions, it comes back with a bunch of very good releases including the return (or I'd rathey the beginning of a new cycle) of Halo Manash, one of the most interesting act from that stylistical grounds. Beyond esoteric aspects of their sonic palette, which could sound vaguely fanciful pleasantries to some listeners, and logical connections to their previous Forest Music trilogy ("Language of Red Goats", "Am Kha Astrie" and "Taiwaskivi"), "Wesieni Wainajat" immediately catches listener's attention by "Kwlksta", where slow tonal transitions on a magnetic analogue organ, distant gloomy horns, thin reverberation on rubbing of metallic plates and other sonic poltergeists knead a mesmerizing afterglow, whose gradual updraft set the stage for the following "Varjoista" (Finnish for "from the shadows"), which sounds the most highest sonic pinnacle of this release: while the organ sounds like fed by current generators, whose voltage-regulated hypnotic spirals seem to be highlighted by mid-tempo suffocated tribal percussions, whose rising intensity fires the ritual atmosphere up as well as the visionary effect of the field recordings which could evoke rustling leaves, sheets of breaking ice or the echo of a bucket after having been lowered in a water well. The cracking sound of brushwood in the fire or the typical noise of residual saltpetre in wet rocks starts a sequence of impressive field recordings on the 20-minutes lasting "Tulelle", where the presence of the organ has been limited to a trance-inducing low-key hum sneaking into listener's eardrum while they render some sacral (physical or just spiritual?) magical hideout beyond the clefts they could have possibly pried by previous sonic levers.
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Artist: Icicle/Safire & Amoss/Gamma
Title: 4th State/2012/Chavland
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Plasma
Rated: *****
Plasma Audio's owl seems to be ready to show its wide wingspan and its claws for nocturnal hunting trip. The first beating of wings of this Melbourne-based creative platform label comes from London-based Dutch ace of drum'n'bass Jeroen Snik aka Icicle, who recently took part to the launch party side by side with other big names of the scene such as The Upbeats and Itch whose dark scraping style is akin to Icicle's one as you can test on his own remix of the very plasmic "4th State" by Safire and Amoss, whose impetuous bass line and synth stabs swoop in on listeners "straight up like a harrier" to mention incendiary words by Gusto for this tune. In spite of the prevalence of more minimal weaving, the rocky fury which ignited this first drop of Plasma Audio doesn't sound mollified by Gamma, who lowered tempo by sudden clots of screeching calls on "2012" before rising it up on the chasing nosedives of the following "Chavland". Very promising upcoming debut release!
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