Music Reviews

Artist: Asher (@)
Title: Untitled Landscapes 1 + 2
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
After repeated operations of smoothing, bevel, trimming and shaving, Somerville-based composer Asher Tuil delivers this double digital release through Australian label Room40. His compositional approach sounds quite interesting and it's mainly related to the redifinition of the concept of home listening: the starting point was a set of recordings which has aleady been issued on "Landscape Studies", their repeated listening and treatment according to a generative process with random elements, focused on the aural perception from different listening points of the recording space, resulting in a set of tracks which are going to put your ears to a kind of hearing test, as they feature muffled and almost frayed harmonies which faces the audible threshold. This distillate is particularly diluted in the five tracks of the first collection of "Untitled Landscapes", whereas each track silently slips into listener's ear just like a point particle waving in the air reaches an alveolus inside the lungs or an H2O molecule in a wet atmosphere runs through any transpiring membrane, while in the 20-minutes lasting track of the second collection, frequencies sound suffocated by subtle white noises so that they look like those tracks deriving from repeated applications of overdubbing on tape recordings. Asher quotes a passage from Pessoa's The Book Of Disquietude (from fragment 224: "I seek and I don't find myself. I want and I can't. Without me the sun rises and sets; without me the rain falls and the wind moans. Its not because of me that there are seasons, the succession of months, time's passage. Lord of the world in me, as of lands that i can't take with me..") in order to give a conceptual framework and I think such an ideal association with that existentialist masterpiece could be well-chosen as I'm quite certain about the possibility some of you have already listened or composed in your own mind Asher's "Untitled Landscapes" as they sometimes look like some stuff casually sparked during an ordinary situation, instantaneous inputs which can provoke various chain reaction in your own mind just like those mental torments of a first-person narrator, evoked by some existentialist or diaristic novel. Check it out!
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Artist: Diamondback Kid (@)
Title: U.F.O.
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Diamondback Recordings (@)
Distributor: Bandcamp
Rated: *****
It's getting better and better with every new release on Diamondback Recordings. This one, 6th of the label, is the brand new EP by the prolific founder and owner, the Diamondback Kid, and it features 5 tracks, all different versions of the wonderful, solid piece of electro, "U.F.O.".
Original track sounds 'phat' if also ethereal as the result of the combination of tough basslines, strong electro beats and dreamy pads. As with most DBK tracks there are also crossing genres elements like acid touches and pop melodies, elements that make the sound of this great artist unique, characteristic and recognizable in the electro scene, also accessible to the 'unsuspected' fans of electronic music.
Thomas Kress' remix sounds cold and robotic just like the personal productions of this German artist extraordinaire. Very cool version!
Then we have The Men Who Knew Too Much with a really imposing remix that follows the duo's dark ambient path, however it is uptempo and groovier than their previous works. Outstanding!
Next comes my version ("Binalog's Space Trip") and, of course, you are the ones who will judge the result ;) I just like to write that it was one of the tracks I really enjoyed remixing!
An instrumental version closes the release.
"U.F.O." deserves attention not only by the electro fans but also by every fan of electronic music in general. It is a solid release, put together nicely and it features some remarkable remixes worth of checking them out. It is now available for purchase on every fine digital outlet and, of course, on DBR's Bandcamp. Buy!
Artist: Sophya (@)
Title: Words and Sounds
Format: CD
Label: Out of Print Records (@)
Rated: *****
'Words and Sounds' by Sophya is a compilation of 13 songs released between 2001 and 2011 plus a new song from their upcoming 2012 release. If you are in to Goth that you can sing along with and dance to, this album is not for you. Of the 14 most are slow, dark and lush songs, with hypnotic and often melancholy vocals.

Spanning 10 years, the production on each song varies from outstanding to really good. Generally, the slower songs have a looser mix and the vocals tend to get buried; so it's hard to get a feel for what the song is about. But, you can still clearly hear the melody, but it's difficult to discern the lyrics. The faster songs have tighter mixes, and you can hear every nuance. To me, the bass stands out the most. There a many moments where the bass playing and sound is reminiscent of Simon Gallup from the Cure, then it gets washed out in effects, then it's bone dry. The bass is almost always different while the keyboards, guitars and vocals sound similar throughout.

There are several tracks that are 5 minutes or longer which could have been edited down to 4 minutes or less. These songs tend to be repetitive seemingly for the sake of fitting in more words. 'Captive Beauty,' clocks in at 7:08. It starts out really good, and takes about 2 minutes to get to the chorus. It goes on about 4 minutes too long with verses that don't seem to end. Sonically it's very nice, but drags.

The more memorable songs are the more uptempo ones, like 'Fifty Four,' 'Desire,' and 'More.' Unlike the slower songs these have more memorable choruses and vocal lines to sing along with. That's not to discount the slower songs. There are some really good songs here.

Overall, I like 'Words and Sounds' by Sophya. It's good record packed a with songs that would please any fan of the Cure, Switchblade Symphony or Black Tape for A Blue Girl. And I count myself among that lot.
Artist: Human Herd/Schizoid (Split 7”) (@)
Title: Never Despair/The Next Extreme
Format: 7"
Label: D-Trash Records (@)
Rated: *****
Well, for the final review of this season's batch I present the Human Herd/Schizoid split 7'. This was released back in September 2011, but you know how slow these things get to us reviewers, and as we're not paid professionals (at least most of us aren't) we review them when time permits, which usually takes a while to assimilate, and then a while longer as we slog through the stack of stuff we get in large packages. My apology to the artists for the delay, but we get to 'em when we get to 'em. For me, this is the first piece of vinyl I've gotten from Chain D.L.K. to review, and I probably should have put it first rather than last, but...whatever.

A little background on the bands- both are from Canada; Human Herd now based out of Hamilton, Ontario, and Schizoid located in Toronto. Human Herd was formed in 2003, and according to them are influenced by NON, Mayhem, Skinny Puppy, Iggy Pop and The Doors. (I didn't hear much of those influences on this record.) Schizoid goes back to 1998, and are the owners of D-Trash Records. Schizoid claims Atari Teenage Riot, Canidru, EC8OR, Meathook Seed, Mayhem, Malformed Earthborn, Thorns, The Berzerker, Brutal Truth, Ultraviolence, (and others) among their influences. (I could hear some of those in what they did on the record.) Schizoid is apparently a well-known name in the digital hardcore scene. Schizoid is also known for performing in 2000's black metal act Dead of Winter, as well as remixing exclusive tracks for Red Harvest, Agnostic Front , and Mortiis. Live, Human Herd has shared the stage with acts such as Behemoth, Cryptopsy, Nargaroth, and Kataklysm; and Schizoid with EC8OP, Merzbow, Faxed Head, and Phallus Uber Alles.

Let me preface this review by saying that I have nothing against the Digital Hardcore genre. I think a little loud, abrasive, fucked-up noisy music is not only good for the soul now and then, but also cleans the wax out of yer ears. That being said, let's get on with the review. Human Herd's 'Never Despair' on the A side relies on a distortion-driven, semi-slow 5 note guitar riff that continues throughout most of the 3 minutes and 16 seconds of the track. It modulates key once, going up a half step. Other elements include what sounds like backwards breaking glass and cymbals, and some rudimentary percussion. Of course, there are the growly speak-sing vocals of which I could occasionally decipher a word here or there. You'll find that guitar riff pretty monotonous after about a minute. Maybe Zen and drugs (incompatible?) would have made it more tolerable, but I relied on neither. I figured the other side had to be better, I was wrong. Schizoid's 'The Next Extreme' sounded like a shitstorm of guitar distortion and hoarsely screamed vocals. I couldn't make out a word of the lyrics. I couldn't hear any drums. To say this track doesn't translate well to vinyl is an understatement. I cranked it up loud and couldn't hear any bass. I thought my cartridge might be cooked, but I put on some other vinyl and it sounded fine. Now to be fair, I checked out the YouTube video of the song, and that was a whole lot better. I could actually make out a word now and then, the mix sounded better, the bottom was there, and the video was pretty cool too, in an apocalyptic way. But I really have to rate this record on the way it sounded to me, and that wasn't too good. I dunno, maybe the mastering, or my system, but it didn't come across well.

Even though I'm giving this a low rating, I strongly suggest you buy it anyway. Why? Several reasons ' Maybe it will sound better on your turntable. Hey, it's vinyl, and could become highly collectible over the years (limited to 300 copies). Some might believe it's the worst record they own. (There are many, many worse things on vinyl though; that's a tough award to clinch.) It could grow on a fungus. It's only $8.00. The bands need the money. Pressing vinyl ain't cheap, and I respect artists who put out music on vinyl these days...well, the independent ones anyway. I also like the Schizoid T-Shirt (you should buy one of those too), but I doubt D-Trash is going to send me one after this review.
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Artist: Rarefaction (@)
Title: ...The Dancer, The Dance...
Format: CD EP
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Music is best when it evokes images or feelings. And it's even better when it's done through instrumental music. '...The Dancer, The Dance...' is an Ep with three, bass-driven, instrumental pieces that evoke imagery with every track. These three songs sound as though they were lifted from a movie soundtrack.

The 4/4 quarter note strum of acoustic guitars on 'Slow Fall' open the Ep. The acoustics are slowly overtaken by bass and synth pads which might underscore a scene of deep thought and reflection, or a slow-motion heroine trip. 'For Ophelia And The Silent Sea,' seems a variation of 'Slow Fall' with its similar sounding dark synths, echoes and delays, but with more momentum. This one depicts a drive on a long stretch of road on an overcast, misty New England day. The Ep finishes on a more hopeful note with the Joy Division/New Order sounding bass guitar piece, 'Happy Endings? (In The Stairwell Everything Was Better...)'

Rarefaction is the Brooklyn-based musician Jerold H., who performed all the music on '...The Dancer, The Dance...'. On his website he says, 'Rarefaction is a reference to sparseness & minimalism. It is the space in-between.' Sparse and minimal is a good way to describe the music and this Ep.
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