Music Reviews

Artist: Obsil (@)
Title: Vicino
Format: CD
Label: Psychonavigation (@)
Distributor: Psychonavigation
Rated: *****
'Vicino' is Italian electronic music composer Giulio Aldinucci's third album under the name Obsil, and from the one-sheet that accompanied the CD, in a similar vein to his previous works. It has been compared to the work of Japan's Susumu Yokota and Austrian guitarist/composer Fennesz, but as I am unfamiliar with them I can only give you my impressions. 'Vicino' is a brief album with nine tracks clocking in at only 36 ½ minutes but it quite an interesting excursion. Beginning with what sounds like a collage from the toy chest from a variety of vintage windup toys, xylophones and thumb-piano kind of things, sweet string lines and maybe a muted oboe wave throughout giving an impression of childhood nostalgia and wonder. This carries over to the next track ('A Smile in Summer') where the sound of a cuckoo-clock appears at one point. Classical orchestral instruments (but as far from traditional classical music as you could imagine) are integrated providing a wistful feel. Obsil's use of repetition is more along the lines of gamelan, quite playful.

Things turn a bit darker on the fourth track, 'Lenti Silenzi,' where what sounds like filtered sustained mellotron chordal drones comprise most of the piece. It does lighten up and climb into sunny territory as it progresses, like the parting of clouds. Field recordings and found sounds also play a part on 'Vicino'; well meshed with the music and never obtrusive but a natural part of it. This is an element that makes the album highly intriguing. Sonically, there are a lot of different things happening throughout but it never devolves into chaos or loses its focus. It is also quite mellow without being placid, and on some level, psychedelic too. I've played this at the bookstore that I manage and have had customers asking me about it. (That's always a good sign.)

To me, it is rare that you hear an album that is as experimental as this yet unequivocally enjoyable and evocative. 'Vicino' is a brilliant departure from what may comprise most of your music library but well worth seeking out. Eclectic to the max, and fascinating to the ears.
Artist: Tobia Lilja (@)
Title: Delirium Portraits
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Distributor: n5MD
Rated: *****
Don't be put off by the slightly creepy portrait of Tobias Lilja on the cover by Anna Moberg (of the band Fredrik, I presume); actually I think it's kinda cool. Be assured that Lilja doesn't quite resemble the undead in real life photos I've seen of him. Actually Swedish electronica composer/audio engineer Tobias Lilja might be a name some Chain D. L. K. readers are already familiar with. If you recall his 2007 'Time Is On My Side' album (no, not a Rolling Stones tribute) it was a somnambulistic ambient-like foray into the dreamy subconscious ala David Sylvian or Mick Harris & Martyn Bates Murder Ballads collaboration. Tobias is vocally less emotive than the former and musically less minimal than the latter, but you get the idea. What percussive elements there were on 'Time Is On My Side' were sparse, sludgy and lumbering.

'Delirium Portraits' is a quite different affair; wide-awake and very lucid with percolating beats and grooves. Although Lilja's vocals are still plaintive here, they are not nearly as drawn out and forlorn. The music, while entirely electronic, is so well integrated that it has an organic feel to it. In a way the mood is similar to The Blue Nile (circa their 'Hats' album) with at times a dash of laid-back Yello. 'Delirium Portraits' seems to be Tobias's bridge to synthpop, although I really wouldn't call in synthpop any more than I'd Pink Floyd hard rock. Perhaps progressive electronica would be a better suited term. Quite upbeat in comparison to 'Time Is On My Side' yet dreamy. Tobias is more vocally adventurous here as well warbling multitracked vocals with harmonies. The songs are story-oriented and though the vocals are melodic, the melodies are far afield from any conventional pop music, synth or otherwise. There is a meandering quality in that respect in comparison to the actual song structure which stays true to form for the most part. It takes a special knack to carry off this kind of pop-experimentalism (Laurie Anderson come to mind) without seeming pretentious or precious and Tobias Lilja makes it work on 'Delirium Portraits'. Undoubtedly his background in audio engineering has paid off immensely as well with all the nice little incidental sonic touches that permeate the album.

While a good number of the tracks are beat-propelled, they aren't really dancefloor material. Still, it makes for engaging, moody listening. The only track I didn't care for was the last ' 'Morocco,' which is somewhat of an ode to a dear departed friend of Tobias. I'm sure it was a personal thing he felt compelled to do, and ended 'Delirium Portraits' on a melancholy note, but as a whole this is still a wonderful album.

Artist: Stendeck (@)
Title: Scintilla
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
'Scintilla' is Swiss electronic music composer Alessandro Zampieri's fifth album under the Stendeck name and the first one that I have heard. Stendeck has made a variety of appearances on compilations since 2005 and also eight or so remixes and a movies soundtrack. 'Scintilla' sounds right art home on the Tympanik label as the simplest description of the music is lush electronic ambiences with industrialized beats. For either aspect Stendeck is a marvelous craftsman creating complex, dense rhythms with an incredible variety of elements- right up there with Front Line Assembly in that regard. As for the synthesis, the lush textures, often huge and other-worldly can be breathtaking as well. Usually they merge together well, but sometimes there seems to be a conflict between the lightness of the ambiences and the dark heaviness of the percussion. It's a minor point but one I have to make. The melodic content, with few exceptions seems to be somewhat amorphous; there is a sense of motion but also a sense of drifting. The sequencing, when utilized is supportive rather than dominating. There is structure and progression, but themes seem somewhat undefined and vague. Perhaps it's just Stendeck's impressionistic style to leave the listener to fill in the gaps.

One thing I noticed on the first listening was right on the first track, 'hold my hand high in the sky ready for the deep dive,' where the very pronounced and not at all vague melody sounded uncannily similar to the one in Thomas Dolby's 'Budapest By Blimp' (1988, 'Aliens Ate My Buick'). Granted, this was probably unconscious as it is a fairly simple melody, but all 8 bars nonetheless. Stendeck sounds nothing like Dolby though and this track has these titanic martial cadences juxtaposed against the sweet, wistful melody. In my opinion it is one of the best, if not THE best track on the album. One instance where I didn't feel that the industrialized percussion worked so well with the elongated chordal ambiences was on 'crimson clouds cascade' where it seems that the cirrus and cumulus of the music meet the cumulonimbus supercell of the percussion. All the drift and dream of the gorgeous sound pads turn dark and murky with the tornado of violent drums.

Overall though, 'Scintilla' is a worthy album and has much to offer especially for those who enjoy uncovering nuances that may not be apparent on the first listen.
Artist: The Rope
Title: s/t
Format: CD EP
Label: Late Century Records (@)
Rated: *****
The Rope's bio says that they play 'an atmospheric, yet driving style of music influenced by some of the darker post-punk bands of the late 70s and early 80s,' and I'd say that is a pretty dead-on description of the music on this CD. The Rope's music could easily draw comparisons with many bands from that era, but lean more to the more popular Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, The Cult, and sometimes even Psychedelic Furs because of Jesse Hagon's vocals.

The Rope opens with 2 very strong, tom- and bass-driven tracks, 'Silence' and 'Water to Wine.' 'Silence' has some nice atmospheric guitar melodies that run throughout which sound like a cross between Billy Duffy and Peter Koppes. 'Water to Wine' is a more 'in your face' track with nice synth leads and a four-on-the-floor chorus with strong hooks and vocal melodies, too. Because of the first two tracks, I predict this CD will spend a lot of time in my car accompanying me on fast drives with the top down. 'Jericho' is another very strong, driving track, a la Sisters, but The Rope breaks up the momentum and brings the mood down, but not the tempo, with the ballad 'Marie' as track 3. The CD ends with a live version of the song 'Eyes,' which reminds me of 'Maryanne' by Sisters of Mercy as if sung by Richard Butler.

I am enjoying this micro-trend of newer bands like Bravery, She Wants Revenge, Hypernova and The Rope that sound like they were spawned from the early 80s English post-punk and death rock scene. This is a very strong first release by The Rope and look forward to hearing more new music
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Artist: Lords of Acid
Title: Little Mighty Rabbit
Format: CD EP
Label: Metropolis Records
Rated: *****
Little Mighty Rabbit is a 3-song EP featuring Lords of Acid's first new, original recordings in over a decade. The title track, 'Little Might Rabbit,' is a fun track about a woman's obsession with her favorite sex toy. The song opens with synths kind of emulating a siren and then kicks right in to the song's chorus, which is driven by heavy, kick-ass drums and bass. 'Rabbit' features DJ Mea's sexist, and best vocal performances on the record (and easily the most memorable songs of the trio). 'Drowning in Ecstasy' is a more up-tempo, four-on-the-floor, anxious-sounding track with a deep bass groove. The anxiousness of the music underscores the lyric; a woman describing the kind of man she wants and the many pleasures she needs him to provide her. On 'Sole Sucker' DJ the tables are turned and DJ Mea plays the part of a dominatrix that taunts and humiliates her slave to a slow, noisy groove.

The Ep includes 9 remixes of 'Little Mighty Rabbit,' some of which hit, some miss. My favorite, and most creative remix, is the 'tweaker Mix' by Chris Vrenna and Jesse Hall. It starts off with a very dark and dystopian half-time, gets a bit disjointed and jolting, then comes together and builds into a 4/4 groove. The 'Bass To Mouth Mix,' with its pseudo Reggae dub vibe, by AK 1200 comes in a close second. But, from dance to hip hop to industrial there's easily a remix for everyone.

Little Mighty Rabbit is a fun record that delivers what the Children of Acid expect, and want from, Lords of Acid; dark, sexy songs with slamming danceable grooves about self-pleasure, sex, eroticism and S&M.
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