Music Reviews



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Artist: From the Mouth of the Sun (@)
Title: Hymn Binding
Format: CD
Label: Lost Tribe Sound (@)
Rated: *****
From the Mouth of the Sun is the work of Aaron Martin and Dag Rosenqvist, whose work I was previously unfamiliar with. This project started in 2011, and they have released two albums previously under this name. The package, like the others from Lost Tribe Sound, is beautifully packaged in an interesting digipack that is screwed together. Now let’s get into the music. We open up with “A Healer Hidden,” which is a short, pleasant droning piece with a bit of static and noise added for good measure. The album then takes a cinematic turn with “A Breath To Retrieve Your Body” is a slow moving piece that would be right at home in the retrospective montage sequence in a soundtrack, with strings over whole note washes. Indeed, much of the rest of the album follows this formula of soundtrack-like work, with piano, strings, and a bit of grinding dissonance and noise just beneath the surface. Some of the standout pieces are toward the end, however. “Risen, Darkened,” for example, is a wonderfully ominous track that builds slowly over time. “Grace” starts off with some nice droning and gets increasingly more intense as it goes on, which provides an interesting counterpoint to the slow piano that runs through it. Overall, this reminds me somewhat of the music one might find backing early Projekt Records releases (such as Black Tape for a Blue Girl). Although I would have liked this to be a bit more on the experimental side, it was quite enjoyable and worth checking out. This album weighs in at around 41 minutes and is limited to 150 copies.
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Artist: Bill Brovold
Title: Superstar
Format: Tape
Label: Eh? (@)
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with Brovold’s work, either solo or as part of the band Larval, so this would be my introduction. The tape opens with a child talking and an adult replying, “OK, Star. Take it away.” Where Star takes us is to a nice, slow funky groove, but it’s just a bit off. Like if The Residents decided to cover a funk band (the album that I never knew I needed until now). As with most tape releases of this sort, the tracks sort of blend into each other, with subtle shifts in style and tempo giving the sense of change. Some tracks are more straightforward jazzy pieces, while others tweak things ever so slightly with some pitch shifting here and there. Touches of ragtime and blues peek through on some tracks, keeping things interesting. Some of the standout tracks for me are “Lost in the Fog,” a slow, plodding guitar number with raw, jangly percussion and cymbals that sound like sheet metal. In this piece the repetitiveness of the guitar really works and provides an air of hopelessness and desperation. The other would be “Absent Friends,” which opens with a hint of dissonance before morphing into a peaceful, almost meditative composition. Overall, this was a solid tape with some interesting themes and solid tracks. I have to admit that it didn’t really go crazy like a lot of the stuff that I have heard from this label. Still, it was a good time, and if you like jazzy experimental, this would certainly be worth checking out.
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Artist: Dafna Naphtali / Gordon Beeferman (@)
Title: Pulsing Dot
Format: CD
Label: Clang (@)
Rated: *****
According to the press release, “Gordon Beeferman and Dafna Naphtali perform duet pieces and improvisations for piano and voice with kinetic sound processing, fractal rhythms, and general polyphonic/kaleidophonic disturbances.” Now let’s see what this sounds like. With Beeferman on the piano and Napthali credited with voice, live sound processing, and electronics, I had hopes that this would not be another classical recording masquerading as experimental music, and thankfully I was not disappointed. The disc opens with heavily processed vocals and sparse piano in “Transmission.” Analogue noise bursts break through as the piano takes center stage, becoming increasingly more animated as the voice is reduced to pure tone, which then becomes more grist for the processing mill. Although this began rather minimal it ended up being quite interesting in the end. Next up, we have “Surface Disturbances.” Animated piano, warbling analogue filter buzz, and theremin-like sweeps, mixed with snippets of voice give this the feel of a mashup of Looney Tunes incidental music and 1950s sci-fi movie sound effects. In other words, it was a fun listen. “Ozone Tongues” has a much more improvised feel to it, with the first part seeming somewhat disjointed. In some ways this segment is reminiscent of Bob Ostertag’s “Attention Span.” The second half brings in voice and rapid-fire piano. At 5:32, “Elegy for Bones” is the shortest track on the album. Here, voice comes to the forefront, and the piano is much more subdued, with sparse playing that is then processed and looped. In contrast, the voice is left virtually untouched, as Napthali sings in tones like an avant-garde scat singer. The disc concludes with “Orbiter,” bringing insistent, frantic piano to the forefront. Overall, this was a good listen, but at times the vocals were completely overshadowed by the piano. For me, this was fine, because I enjoyed the piano more than the vocals (this is just my personal preference, and your mileage may vary, of course). This album weighs in at around 52 minutes.
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Artist: Helado Negro
Title: This Is How You Smile
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
New York-based Roberto Carlos Lange’s sixth album is predominantly Latin-textured melancholy acoustic pop, with elements of soul ballads and even lounge. Though introduced as being aimed at topics of politics and race, it’s got an introspective tone that makes it all feel like heartfelt and romantic love songs, even though the lyrics (some English, some Spanish) are sometimes fatigued world-weary assessments of the difficulties of life. If you don’t pay attention to this, you can mellow out to this, no problem.

While a lot of acoustic guitar music is now revered in production terms, as though adding any non-acoustic elements would be some kind of sacrilege, that mistake is not made here. The production touches are gentle, but beneficial- a few drum sounds here, a bit of synth bass there, nice use of delay on “Todo lo que me falta”, all small doses but effective. Little sonic skits like “Echo For Camperdown Curio” and “November 7” are where the most unusual stuff happens, little bursts of analogue synths and found sound and tape-style edits that belie a studio playfulness.

Highlights include “Seen My Aura”, a gently funky walking number that has pop crossover and radio potential. “Sabana De Luz” which is the closest we get to a party atmosphere, but we’re clearly still inside Lange’s head. If looking for one track that channels the full sound of the album, try “Fantas”, and not the overly intimate and slightly unrepresentative opener “Please Won’t Please”.

The title, while not overtly ironic, could certainly be misleading, and if you’re expecting a feel-good party album, think again. If however you’re in the mood for a rich and heartfelt bit of relaxing acoustic pop (I’ve resisted mentioning Seu Jorge until now), with just hints of lyrical edge and modern production, this may catch your ear.
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Artist: Cordis Cincti Serpente
Title: Cenobitorium
Format: Tape
Label: Industrial Ölocaust Recordings (@)
This is my second encounter with Cordis Cincti Serpente, the dark ambient/esoteric occult project of Adrian Marcado from Bari, Italy, following 'Noo Yuggoth (Redux)' which I reviewed back in the summer of 2017. This work should have been reviewed much earlier than the present, but as so often with some things, this one "slipped through the cracks" so to speak, and got mixed in with the "already reviewed" pile when in actuality, it wasn't. Be that as it may, a brief refresher on this project is in order. The Latin-derived name Cordis Cincti Serpente is taken from the title of one of Aleister Crowley's Holy Books of Thelema, so you know magick is involved here. 'Cenobitorium' is derived from Cenobite, a term originally ascribed to a member of a monastic community, until Clive Barker co-opted it for his extradimensional demonic beings in the Hellraiser series. Considering the tone of this recording, I'm more inclined to go with the latter rather than the former.

While 'Noo Yuggoth' was Lovecraftian in nature, this is something completely different. It is a work in 3 parts (Cenobitorium I, II, III), 9:42, 13:06 and 23:24, respectively. Much of it is uncomfortable, and all of it is enigmatic. Right out of the gate you are confronted with clashing windchimes, an oppressive drone and squealing animal sounds (pigs, hogs, swine, maybe others). The drone turns buzzy and becomes even more oppressive. The squeals grow more frantic and might be representative of other animals as well. There is no convenient description or guide put out by label or artist for this work, so your imagination can run wild. Ritual slaughter? Inhumane symbolism? Who can say. The swine don't sound like they're having a good time though. Fortunately this is the shortest track, but it still seemed rather long to me.

Part 2 begins with a number of foley sounds (ordinary activity) difficult to identify in specific, interspersed with brief, thick slabs of low chords until a drone emulating an electric grindstone emerges between a cluster of random metallic sounds. That semi-piercing sharpening drone wears on the ears rather quickly, and eventually morphs into a different piercing pitch just as uncomfortable. That ceases about halfway through and you're left in a rather strange, unsettling electro-acoustic environment. The electric grindstone drone makes intermittent reappearances as well as other higher pitched piercing drones adding to the anxiety. The electronics which have been in the background up to this point become a rhythmic element, eventually petering out with muffled, manipulated voices trailing off. Part 3 is a dichotomy of being both the weirdest and most normal segment of this work. It's comprised of recurring sounds that include traffic; an intermittent but measured clanging bell (buoy warning?); a semi-garbled low pitched repetitious sequenced synth; unintelligible manipulated voices; an intermittent chordal string pad played lightly in the background; and other sonic rumblings. This goes on for 23+ minutes.

Merely describing the sounds doesn't do this work justice, but there's no other way I can think of to relate it. The work is so arcane that very few people are likely to be interested in it, so a release limited to 23 cassette copies (there may still even been some available) seems like the most practical idea. (Also consider the cryptic symbolism of the number 23.) While I can't see how 'Cenobitorium' would be good background music for working ritual magick, I can see how it would be inscrutable enough to interest some who might practice it. 'Cenobitorium' is a work which I refuse to rate (by number of stars) not because it is undeserving, but simply because it is unquantifiable.
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