Music Reviews



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Artist: Bartellow San Ground San
Title: Amanogawa
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SVS Records
Bartellow & Ground’s second limited edition EP is a nicely casual fusion of light-footed house and synth-electronica with more organic percussion and atmospheric elements. It’s lovely, steady-walking music with a nicely feel-good tone.

The cut-up retimed sung elements on “Holy Water” are a distinct bit of texturing that make it a highlight, whilst the title track is a more exotic and sultry affair with feminine vocals and a lovely rubbery bass sound.

But ultimately there is a slightly ‘nothingy’ aspect to some of the structuring that makes some of the tracks outstay their welcome a little bit and not quite manage to justify their eight-minutes-and-up running lengths. Fourth track “Orto Vision”, at only a minute and a half and a more abstract drumapella of sorts, is of course excepted. Is this release possibly just a degree or two too laid back?
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Artist: Did Virgo
Title: Rise & Shine EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: La Dame Noir Records
Did Virgo has been DJ’ing in Marseille since the first night of the city’s first techno club, and further afield of course, for decades, and been involved in music production since the early noughties, but this is only his second EP release under that name, with the first five years ago- so it’s a bit of a rarity.

This is steady, generally 110bpm-120bpm house music with a supreme steadiness and a confident lack of drama. Synth bass steps reliably and unambitiously over simple 4/4 drum patterns, and a variety of synth details higher up to give texture. Opener “Show Me”, with its two-word vocal mantra, sets out this template very accurately. The lengthier spoken word work on “Glass Wool Acts” is strangely Yello-ish, while “Rise & Shine” has a more guitar-driven aspect to it that slightly recalls Rinôçérôse or perhaps a more American-ish EDM flavour.

“Kiss Me, Kill You” has a female vocal that’s English language but very French in pronunciation and stereotypical delivery, languid, soft and vowel-driven. It’s the closest intersection to pop, especially when the quite synthwave-ish arpeggios arrive. It’s the only track to get a remix, from Max Pask, whose re-take on it is rather straightforward- changing the sounds, making things sound a little brighter and poppier, but essentially it’s a remix that doesn’t venture very far from its parent track.

It’s a decent, steady, and DJ-friendly EP that will keep you relaxed but moving, without really rocking your world.
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Artist: Yann Novak
Title: Scalar Fields
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Room40
These two almost-exactly-twenty-minute works are the sound elements from audiovisual installations, initiated in 2013, where both the picture and the sound are driven by an interest in stretching time to such an extent that any change is so gradual as to be barely perceptible. Everything appears static at first glance, and only by returning to it minutes later do you see that anything has shifted. Though it’s not made expressly clear in the notes I’ve got, it appears that the video is a supremely slow change in colour tone and gradient- hence the names “yellow, blue, yellow” and “orange, blue, orange”, which also appear to have titles where the colours are expressed hexidecimally. It appears to be a very digital and technical exercise.

And so it is with this detached sound. Supremely soft and mellow synthetic pads of sound, afforded no sense of origin either in the concept notes or the sound itself, where different elements of windy, hollow and hum tones meander forwards and backwards with a resolute slowness. Twenty minutes ends up feeling like an arbitrary extraction of sonic landscapes that could theoretically last hours or days, with no beginning or end, loops that never actually repeat, and so on.

There’s not a lot to distinguish the two pieces either, with the second piece “orange, blue, orange” perhaps marginally deeper and yet also slightly warmer, but the abstraction is so absolute that it becomes hard to differentiate between genuine sonic variation and the reflections of your own thoughts and moods occurring alongside.

Uneventful by design, this is a comforting and soporific sonic wallpaper of a kind of which I’m very fond.
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Artist: raison d'être & Troum (@)
Title: XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Transgredient Records (@)
Rated: *****
I have been listening to both raison d’être and Troum for about 20 years now, so I was incredibly excited to hear what these two artists would do together. According to the liner notes, “This is the second part of the collaboration that started with “De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu”, released 2015. A creation of 9 separate “worlds,” existing only at the moment you immerse into it,” and that this album consists of “raison d'être sound sources used and processed by Troum 2013-2017 (deranged and reframed, morphed and transformed).” The album opens with “In Den Wellen, Ein Sehnen,” which is calm and soothing, like a choir of angels slowly singing a lullaby. “The Machine Starts To Sing” takes things in a different direction than I would have expected from either act. A beat comes in at semi-regular intervals to give it a sense of motion with an ominous atmosphere. Overall, this has an interesting, cinematic feel. In “Eigi Einhamr,” Troum is firmly in the driver’s seat. Waves of drone wash over the listener like waves of the sea, dissolving into ripples that become part of the next wave. “Ardaga,” on the other hand, shows Andersson’s influence, as low, glacial rumblings combine with high-pitched synth drone. In “Hang'-E-Lah,” bass strings strum, rattle, and resonate over an atmospheric soundscape, giving it an ominous feel. This is the point in the movie where the protagonist has entered the alien’s lair, but just before they are attacked. Next up, we have “Dreiklang Aus Äther,” a slow moving, melancholy piece; if you had told me that this was a new track by raison d’être, I would believe it. With “Ija-Kyl,” we’re back to with drone washes and just a hint of dissonance. On “Expulsion Of The False Self,” you know that Troum is the one putting this together. Walls of atmospheric drone, with pounding percussion throughout. As the track progresses, the percussion becomes increasingly intense, giving you the feeling of sitting on a runaway train. “Epõdós” closes out the disc with a good mix of Troum and raison d’être’s styles, and after the last track this sounds almost peaceful, with drone mixed with the sound of waves. With some collaborations like this, it can be easy to come to it with high expectations, only to be disappointed when it doesn’t live up. Thankfully, this is not the case here. This album is as beautiful as I would expect from two masters of their craft, and it was nice to see the different approaches peek through in the compositions. Highly recommended. This album weighs in at around 62 minutes.
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Artist: Alder & Ash
Title: Clutched in the Maw of the World
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
Alder & Ash is the work of Montreal-based artist Adrian Copeland, and I had previously reviewed his first album, “Psalms for the Sunder.” On that release, I felt that he played it a bit too safe and didn’t take as many risks musically, so I was interested to see how this album would play out, knowing that this was his second album. Like “Psalms for the Sunder,” this album features some well-constructed, pretty compositions. Thankfully, however, this one is more interesting from an experimental standpoint. For example, “A Seat Amongst God and His Children” has a touch of distortion and is not trying so hard to be pretty, with lots of fast, high-pitched runs on what sounds more like a violin than a cello. I also enjoyed the more slow, melancholy tracks like “Clutched in the Maw of the World” and “The Glisten, the Glow.” For me, though, the standout tracks were “The Great Plains of Dust” with its martial feel, harsh dissonance, and distorted strings and “Seeds of a Sallow Earth,” which provides a good case for negative space, where keeping things sparse kept things interesting through the use of quiet passages. Overall, this is a good direction for Alder & Ash and it was nice to see the evolution of this artist. If you are looking for some experimental cello, this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 150 copies.
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