Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Dark Ambient Radio Vol. 3 – Muzak for the Final Elevation
Format: CD
Label: Dark Ambient Radio (@)
Rated: *****
This compilation lets you know what it is right up front, and in some ways it flows together like a good radio show should. If you didn't know it was a compilation, it would be easy to think that it was the work of the same artist for several tracks. I had not heard of any of these artists, so I was interested to see what this group had to offer. Aspectee, Nepenthe, and Valerio Orlandini open the disc with three tracks respectively of nice spacey ambient. Mortaja mixes it up a bit with some ritualistic chanting. Crepuscular throws down some crunchy ambient with the feel of tectonic plates shifting. Myth Industries and Sjellos also departs from the space ambient feel with slow waves of rattling and light drumming. Sjellos takes on his own track with some drums that I didn't really expect to kick in, but it worked. Then he goes back to the comfort of droning ambiance. Winterbound provides the base for your next Halloween mix ' this has a nice horror movie soundtrack feel to it. Mytrip finishes us off with 'Small Humyn,' which has a nice heaviness to it. There is a feeling of pressure and depth, like the thick drone that you might find in the inside of a beehive. For me this was one of the standout tracks on this disc. Overall this was interesting dark ambient and it was curated well. If you want to hear some new blood in the dark ambient scene, this is one to pick up. This compilation is limited to 500 copies and weighs in at around 72 minutes.
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Artist: Andrea Bolzoni and Daniele Frati (@)
Title: Dialvogue: Improvising Dialogues
Format: CD
Label: Setola Di Maiale
Rated: *****
These two artists comprise two thirds of Swedish Mobilia, and I had previously reviewed their album "Knife, Fork and Spoon," so I had some idea of what these artists were capable of. The label describes them thus: 'A fresh duo, young and precise. Musicians active in many projects, here are grappling with radical improvisations that vary the point of focus, with attention to timbres and rhythmic relations.' This album is a testament to what you can accomplish with just two musicians. From the opening track, 'Reunion,' it is clear to tell that there will be a lot going on in each track. Overall, the music is sparse, but has a good amount of energy. Tracks like 'Disagreement' and 'Interstellar Dialogues' vacillate between sheer intensity and slowed down weird, spacey electronic loops. Other tracks, like 'Expressed Monologue' and 'Butterflies' are almost mellow, but keep the weird loops going. Still others, like 'Surgery Room 3 Blurry' keep a restrained pressure going ' not frantic like others, but suppressed'gradually letting loose, but only to an extent. Overall, this is a pretty good album of improvisation. With only a duo of guitar and drums, you might think that it would get dull and repetitive, but Bolzoni and Frati manage to keep things lively and interesting. This album weighs in at around 55 minutes.
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Artist: Svarte Fjell
Title: Horisont
Format: CD
Label: Le Crépuscule du Soir (@)
Rated: *****
This seems to be the debut of Norwegian artist Roy-Arne Knutsen. I was also unfamiliar with the label Le Crépuscule du Soir, but then again I am not into black metal. No problem, this is not black metal, but rather solid dark ambient that would be quite at home a country over on Cold Meat Industries with fellow Scandinavians Mortiis or Arcana. We get off to a slow start though, as 'Frostland' lays down some noisy, repetitive synth drone. Not too engaging, and 'A Road to Nowhere' begins where 'Frostland' ends, but then moves into a slow cello line with scratching that makes it sound like an old record. Now we're getting somewhere. 'Svarte Fjell' is where the going gets good though, as we move into a more epic feel with strings, militaristic percussion, and synth washes that give it a cinematic feel. Cue the battle scene. Definitely reminds me of old Mortiis. 'Bamse Brakar' slows it down a bit with staccato strings over dark atmosphere and a plodding bass drone that reminds me of Arcana's 'Dark Age of Reason.' By the time we reach 'Nordavinden,' the battle is over. The percussion is gone. All that remains is mournful synth. By the time we get to 'Horisont,' there is little left but the earth and the dead on the fields. A bit of synth and space. Overall this is pretty good dark ambient and a good introduction to this artist. I'll definitely be interested to see how this artist progresses. This is limited to 200 copies, so if you want this you'll want to get it quickly. This album weighs in at around 45 minutes.
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Artist: AeTopus (@)
Title: Angels and Machines
Format: CD
Label: 12Ton Productions
Rated: *****
AeTopus is the work of Washington-based artist Bryan Tewell Hughes. The press sheet states that 'AeTopus has become recognized for its unique crossover sound - one that is too fantastic and original to be called 'New Age' or 'World,' yet too dynamic to be considered pure Ambient or Chillout.' Let's see if this description holds up. The disc opens with 'Angels and Machines,' which sounds like something you would find on labels like Narada, with a new age ambient feel. We move into a Middle Eastern vibe with 'Reflections in the Glass,' so I can see where the world descriptor sticks. 'Origin' sounds like something off Delerium's Karma album, with esoteric female vocals over world-ish soundscape. 'Alley of Dust and Soul' is a bit harder to pin down. It's slow moving, with percussion that punctuates the atmosphere. This is where AeTopus seems to try to break out of the genre mold. 'Angels and Machines 2' seems to be a reprise of 'Angels and Machines' with some female vocals speaking in what sounds like French. Overall this is pleasant listening, but a bit too new age for my dark ambient leaning tastes. I could see this music working well for a soundtrack though, so if cinematic music appeals to you, this may be one to check out. This album weighs in at around 27 minutes.
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Artist: Jeff Kaiser and Phil Skaller
Title: Endless Pie
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: pfMENTUM (@)
This is a collaboration between Jeff Kaiser (trumpet, flugelhorn, voice, and electronics) and Phil Skaller (prepared piano). I was unfamiliar with their work, and the artwork looked pretty cheesy, so I didn't really expect a whole lot. And then I put in disc 1 (blueberry pie), pressed play, and was assaulted by 'Unchangeable Fundament,' a 13 minute opus of spastic improvisation and demented scat singing. It was amazing. But few can keep up that kind of intensity, and the next few tracks were not as engaging. 'People from the Machinations' was really minimal, and by the time it redeemed itself with more weird vocals, I had almost lost interest. But then 'Two Unknowns, The One Being' shows that they can still be minimal and engaging, with a lot of dissonance. This gets more interesting as it progresses, and reminded me a bit of Bob Ostertag's 'Attention Span.' And then we are on to two more standout tracks. 'Galileo Uses Propaganda' comes out of the gate fighting, with distorted screams over machine gun piano. This is noisy and awesome. 'Anticipated By Bacon' continues its crunchy, reeling ride, which also moves into rapid fire horn and piano. The rest of the disc continues with a decent mix of chill elements and speed. Moving on to disc 2 (cherry pie), we once again begin with my favorite kind of jazz ' crazy. 'The Puppet Does Not Have A Soul' is almost 15 minutes of crazy improv, noisy and chaotic with lots of feedback. Unfortunately, disc 2 is not nearly as engaging as disc 1, since it seems that this is where they decide to showcase their minimal side. For example, 'Behave Very Much Like After-Images' is really sparse and minimal. There is a lot of clicks and not a lot else. 'The Problem of Telescopic Vision' is almost like listening in on a recording of a warm up, with a few notes and some scratching that never really goes anywhere. 'As Some Relics' started off promising, with some scratching, bottles rattling, slow trumpet, and some piano string plucking which then moves into what sounds like a didgeridoo, but it's kind of all over the place and doesn't seem to have anything keeping it together. We finish off the disc with some noisy jazz. Perhaps the best analogy I could give is that if the blueberry disc were a solid, then the cherry disc would be a gas. It's almost like two very different albums in the same container, so this is a mixed bag. When I have pie, I like it to have some weight to it. Those whose tastes tend toward the minimalist may prefer the sugar-free diet pie. This album weighs in at around 109 minutes.
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