Music Reviews



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Artist: Ben Lukas Boysen (@)
Title: Restive (OST)
Format: CD
Label: Hymen Records (@)
Rated: *****
'Restive' is an original motion picture soundtrack by Ben Lukas Boysen to an Independent film by the same name written and directed by Jeremiah Jones. Briefly, the film is a suspense thriller, a dark and hopeless exploration of domestic violence, about a woman trying to escape the emotional abuse and tyranny of her husband. After years of this, the wife decides she isn't going to take it anymore and stands up to bully-dad. 'Mr. Big Stuff' enlists the aid of a couple of his sadistic pals to take the wife (Jeva) and her young son out to the woods to 'let the pain flow through'. Somehow Jeva and son manage to escape the clutches of their captors and become the hunted. I haven't seen the film but I can't imagine it ending well. However, this review is about the soundtrack, not the movie.

Ben Lukas Boysen might be better known as Hecq, an IDM/ambient project with nearly a dozen releases and also remixes - Architect, Borealis, In Strict Confidence and Snog being among them. Boysen has also done soundtrack work for several other films as well as commercial sound design. To say his soundtrack for 'Restive' is dark and moody is an understatement. He excels here in creating a depressingly oppressive atmosphere that evokes the kind of melancholia reserved for life's unsweetest moments. Long passages of sustained strings, sparse, sad piano with lots of reverb (an oft used technique in movies and TV dramas), subtle noise/synth ambience and grating high pitched drone are just some of the tools in this composer's box. I suppose you could call it cinematic dark ambience as it has many of the elements of minimal dark ambient music, and holds its own with some of the best I've heard. It isn't until track seven, 'Junkyard' that percussion enters the picture, deep, plodding, and relentless. The atmospheric sonics that accompany the track are perfect. Boysen's use of sophisticated textures and sound sculpting throughout this work are admirable, and even when it gets noisy, as it occasionally does, it is still highly listenable. Throughout the album, the atmospheres build in intensity with some respite here and there. It is a psychological intensity, not necessarily a dynamic one, likely in keeping with the film. I should mention that the last track, 'Closing Credits' is by Nils Frahm, but being mostly sparse and melancholy piano does not detract from Boysen's compositions at all.

Altogether excellent, and even if I never see the film (which I probably won't), Ben Lukas Boysen's 'Restive' soundtrack is a remarkable achievement.
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Artist: PascAli (@)
Title: Suspicious Activity
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The cover artwork of this funny release by PascAli, collaborative project of Sean Ali and Pascal Niggenkemper, seems to suggest the source of raw materials for the preparation of their enhanced double-basses, which lie in respective cases on a wheelie bin! Even if they avoid any kind of processing, effects and electronics, they manages to keep their sound genuinely acoustic and impressively descriptive, so that you don't really need a review to understand what you're going to listen to! You just have to read the titles, even if some allusions are just ironic, provocative or jeering ("Britpop", "Perpetua", "Pavarotties"). The mere listening of a CD could deprive the listener of the pleasure of their bizarre ways for the transfiguration of double-bass, as I'm pretty sure you'll wonder about the techniques and objects they used to turn their musical instruments into squawking chickens ("Chicken Talk"), shredders ("How Long Does It Take Styrofoam To Become Earth Again?"), power saws ("Sawing Logs"), angry dogs ("Dog Bite"), beloved fetishes ("Kissing F-holes"), resounding behives ("Buzzing Bees"), innuendos ("Serene Moment", "Bonanza's Nuts", "Witch Tricks") or authentic sonic set designer ("Highway To Hell", "Industrial Romance"). I've just listed a part of the wide sonic mimicry this creative couple of musicians collected in 22 wacky sketches. I'll leave you the pleasure to explore the remaining sketches of pure sonic camouflage.
Dec 21 2012
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Artist: Legend (@)
Title: Fearless
Format: CD
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Distributor: Storming The Base
Rated: *****
Fearless is the debut long-player from the icelandic duo of Krummi Björgvinsson and Halldór Ã. Björnsson, together known as Legend (named after the Ridley Scott movie.) They've been together since 2009, and have also played together in the 'murky country band' Esja. They've been taking their time, waiting to strike, and its clear they're gunning for the big time, with reviews starting to creep in from all over the globe, garnering comparisons to some of the biggest names in blackened electronic music. It becomes the task of the harried listener to seperate wheat from hyperbole, and decide for themselves if the music stands up against the one sheet.

The first question, and perhaps the most important, is do you like Industrial dance music (the esoteric genre known as EBM)? For people that like their beats martial, like to stomp combat boots on concrete and dye their hair blonde, this may be a treasure trove for yr next goth night. If you are pre-disposed to like this style of music, it may help you to listen deeper and find the merits. First of all, the production on this record just slays! The beats are tight and punchy, and will probably sound amazing in those strobe lit warehouses. The synths are warm and full-bodied; everything is levelled and mastered to glimmering perfection. As dance music, its a 9.5 out of 10. The lyrics are occasionally cringe-worthy, like the line 'We are from a bloodline/lost in times of chaos,' which reads like an outtake from an Underworld movie. Or 'I want to be the weekend warrior for you,' from 'City,' which sounds almost exactly like Maynard Keenan's cyberpunk pimp shaman persona in Puscifer.You most likely have heard something like this before; Legend is more interested in mastering the style than forging ahead. The record gains strength as it goes along, and as you get sucked into the drama, the vocals start to gel with the rest of the music, making a more fully realized package.

Reading other reviews of this record, it is clear that it has a polarizing effect on listeners, sometimes contradictory. One reviewer claimed that Fearless was 'Dark as in heavy gothic shades of decaying grandeur dark,' whereas another reviewer claimed 'Speaking of darkness, it's actually a mood that Fearless largely avoids, and I think it's a stronger LP for that.' I chalk it up to someone's opinion on goth/industrial style going in, but i would like to ask the listener to try a little harder. As someone who hears vast continents of electronic music on a daily basis, it is clear that Legend are brilliant producers, and i could imagine Fearless' nocturnal reverie scoring many neon-lit night drives and sweaty ecstacies. Its got some of the fiercest, smoothest, sexiest low-end on record this year. The synths are innovative and unique, which is one of the hardest battles to win in this 'in-the-box' day of digital production. The occasionally cheesy lyrics are about the only detractor, to be honest, they are clumsy and obvious, when a more subtle metaphor might be more suitable. Legend are epic and passionate; Fearless is a modern re-imagining of Teutonic giants and elder gods, transplanted to glittering streets of polished chrome and broken glass.

Apparently Iceland has never had much of a goth/darkwave scene, so Legend are to be applauded for importing the style and doing something different. With bands like Raime and Regis and Brooklyn's Rosenkopf revitalizing the hard-hitting, black lit club groove, Legend may find their place in the global spotlight. They should keep doing what they are doing, and perhaps read a few volumes of poetry in the meantime.
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Artist: Christoph Schiller/Lea Danzeisen (@)
Title: 47°13' N 7°E
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Another uncommon sonic wringer from Portuguese label Creative Sources has been signed by a couple of Switzerland-based (as you could easily surmise from the geographical coordinate, which point to a place the district of Franches-Montagnes in the canton of Jura in Switzerland, they used to name this release) musicians, Lea Danzeisen and Christoph Schiller, who decided to squeeze the spinet, the little brother of harpsichord and piano, whose sound got totally transfigured by meticulous modifications on strings, jacks, dampers and plectrums. Given that they marked their collaborative work by highlighting the place it was supposedly assembled and recorded, you could imagine them as a couple of clocksmiths while grappling with a ginormous broken clock, whose resounding coil springs, bellows, rollers, wheels and screws become parts of a huge orchestra over the two long-lasting tracks of the album with moments when their seemingly perfect mechanism suddenly busts. It's quite amazing to imagine their sonic reactions after their nerve-racking assemblage got harmstringed by this unexpected crashes as well.
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Artist: Bleak House (@)
Title: Dark Poetry
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This is certainly not the first attempt of rendering a narrative or thespian declension of the so-called musical indeterminacy, but the intrinsic heterogeneity, the wise literal references and the bizarre orchestrating techniques, which have been showed on "Dark Poetry" by this trio of Norwegian musicians made up of pianist Dag-Filip Roaldsnes, alto-saxophonist Kim-Erik Pedersen and drummer Tore T.Sandbakken, makes it one of the most interesting attempt, which tries to follow such a direction along with many quotations and references. After the introduction of the three ideal narrating voices on "Entrances", they seems to offer a potential sonci translation of the notorious novel "Bleak house" by Charles Dickens on the homonymous track, whose constant creaks, tottering and groggy sonic structures and wobbly melodies manages to evoke the cutthroat and sadly realistic plot of the novel, which has still been considered one of the best indictment against law, lawyers, red tapes and nitpicking aspects of many civil jurisdictions, a shadow play for the filthiest side of human nature. The intense low-key broken melodies on "Short letter, long farewell" and their tacit sketchiness seem to evoke another moment of that novel. I mentioned Dickes' novel, but their sonic exploration could be perfect to set to music many other bleak houses from other arts: I could remind the house described by Shirley Jackson on "The Haunting of Hill House" or the imagined houses where characters portrayed by Schiele could live into. Their music sometimes sound deliberately a sort of mirroring of impossible geometries, weird-looking corners, crooked rooms, cramped cells, even when they seek for similar structures in the organic world ("Tweak peak", "Jakla"), within sonic ("So low", "Graph", "Etude I", "Etude II") and literary ("For sale: Baby shoes, never worn", quotation of the known flash fiction by Hemingway). The dedication to Morton Feldman's "Trio" on "Trio for Morton Feldman" cannot be but dutiful to one possible source for inspiration of "Dark Poetry", even if an attentive listening could remind techniques and sketches from John Cage, or Henry Cowell.
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