Music Reviews



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Artist: Uphill Racer (@)
Title: How It Feels To Find There's More
Format: CD
Label: Normoton (@)
Distributor: Al!ve
Rated: *****
Any attempt of cataloguing Oliver Licht's (Uphill Racer's name on vital records office) fourth album, being it even the most imaginative lexical or semantic hybridization, could be tantamount to inflicting an unjust punishment, particularly if you consider not only the huge "logistic" effort in order to join together 15 different voices but also for the neat narrative coherence, the conceptual substance injected into a stylistically simple structure and the impressively wide assortment of musical colors, strongly amalgamated by the above-mentioned narrative unity, Oliver managed to ram into the fertile grounds of "How It Feels To Find There's More" (what a grandiloquent and suitable title for such an issue!). From Naissance (meaning birth) - that's the name of the "philosophical" intro on the voice of Judith Heusch (voice of Patty Moon), who looks like playing on the subjectivity of time perception when singing "There is a moment, now it is passed. Here is the future, now it is passed" - to the outro Renaissance (meaning rebirth), Uphill Racer plots an enthralling course, whose laps seem to scan a gradual ascension from falling to flowing, a step-by-step raising which is going to cause little crevices on the rocky surface of listener's heart by melting that undefined electronic pop naivety with some emotional bullets of Nordic folk, microscopic toy-like melodies, old-tune abstractions, meaningful lyrics, a certain sense of melancholy and many hooks which are going to resurface from the abysses of your musical memories many past listenings, which often smell of innocence and embryonic bliss. Most of singers could be new to you as they mainly come from indie-pop or indipendent labels' territories, but they exactly added to the tunes the touch Uphill Racer imagines and some of them are really touching: the sense of close distance perfectly fitted to the literary content of "From Miles" added by Betty Mugler from Hidalgo, the heavenly reverberating airy tone on "Applause" injected by Rebecka Maria Wallgren, that spot of greenhorn-like tousled lightheartedness imprinted by Kristof Deneus on "Gone With Eastern Winds", the light feeling of restlessness evoked by Aydo Abay on" The Automatic Function" - a lovely song whose atmosphere could remind the ones by Moderat - or the smooth-spoken caress by Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond on "Overfrail" - another lovely song who reminded to me some pieces by Tom Middleton's Amba -, the sing-song vocal massages by Patrick Haid from Line Drawings on the luminous "Kite", the powerful dramatic tension highlighted by Rosalie Eberle on the touching "Requiem For My Friend". The fourth album signed by this composer could be considered a pithy record, but not heavy at all, so that it's quite logical Normoton can easily announce they could promise to produce even his 25th album!
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Artist: Negru Voda
Title: Våld.De.Luxe
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Although I am familiar with Peter Nystrom's work as Megaptera, this is my first exposure to Negru Voda. The liner notes list influences like Test Dept, S.P.K., The Klinik, Cabaret Voltaire, Severed Heads, Einsturzende Neubauten, so you know that this is going to be a bit more raw and dirty. His MySpace page states that it sounds like 'Heavy steel works-machinery.' According to the press release, 'Compared to the perhaps darker, more layered sound of Megaptera, Negru Voda is stripped down, unrefined, and to the point ' old school, true to form, and primitive industrial music. . . Primarily built upon a strong foundation of punishing and persistent rhythms and cold, analogue pulsations, these are colossal soundscapes, where harsh, factory corrosion is met with insidious waves of distorted, electro-shock blasts streaked with highly ominous and bleak atmospherics as fueled by pints of lager, drams of Islay single malt, alienization, media wastelands, and cold Scandinavian winters.' Evidently this is a mix of new, unpublished recordings, coupled with a collection of out of print, re-mastered works, including the full length Dark Territory CD (Old Europa Cafe, 1998), plus 3 bonus tracks, the des Esseintes split 10' (Fin de Siecle, 2001), and the AVA: (dunk) picture 7' (Formosan, 2002).

So let's wade through this set. Disc 1, Vald.De.Luxe, lets us know right away that this is not the heavy dark ambience of Megaptera ' this project may be the same person, but it is definitely under new management. Google translator tells me that the title of this disc means 'Violence De Luxe,' coined by a friend in describing Nystrom smashing his DVD player with a hammer on stage during a live set. This provides some insight into what we are in for. This is old school industrial with crushing rhythm, metal sounds, and heavy beats. I almost expected to hear a drill in the mix. But still, there are elements of his other project creeping through, with the close attention to the ambience created. These are not your typical noisy metallic soundscapes. The closest comparison I can come up with is Inade. There is some respite at times, as with 'Kompressor,' which features stabbing analogue notes that echo and decay slowly away, as a child's voice (his son Alexander, according to the liner notes) occasionally bubbles up from the mix. 'The Dobruja Virus H1N1 Mix' finishes the disc on a similar trajectory, with a more ominous sound and sparser atmospheric sound.

Disc 2 starts us off with the wonderfully titled 'Not Much Happens at the End of a Record.' It's downright peaceful compared to the wall of noise that comes next and sounds exactly like the title suggests (how's that for a first in noise music?) Where the first disc was more along the lines of noisy ambience, this disc has no split loyalties - this is noise. Then again, Old Europa Cafe is not exactly known for easy listening. There are segments of unintelligible spoken word, such as in the track 'A Nice Pile of Bodies,' but this seems incidental to the noise that we will be hit with. Negru Voda does a good job of alternating intensity of noise among the various tracks, but this is much more intense and closer to noise music than Vald.De.Luxe. This does not make it better or worse; only different. For me the standout track on the disc is Radiotronik. It's an unrelenting wall of noise tour de force that would give MSBR a run for his money. Analogue Highland Inferno (The Komplete) is a 15 minute track of pummeling noise that settles into a comfortable rhythm only to begin an exercise in repetition that makes you think that Nystrom wants to hurt you personally with his music. This suspicion is only reaffirmed as the disc marches relentlessly on.

Disc 3 collects several oddities, tracks from vinyl releases, and live recordings as well. The tracks range from old school industrial (in the vein of Einsturzende Neubauten) to sparse atmosphere. The standout tracks on this disc for me are the first two. 'The Mine Shaft' and 'The Drill' take you on a musical journey to the mines, with the sound of machinery prominent in the composition. 'The Drill' is a wonderful track that quickly settles into a pounding rhythm. Once again, we see Nystrom demonstrate a range of sonic textures as his 'Live in Tokyo '79' is almost calming. He notes that this track was created using a broken Kraftwerk 7' of Autobahn that 'was glued together to achieve the special effects that only one band is capable of.' Parts of 'The Smell of Islay' would almost be at home on a Front 242 album. 'Turku,' which is an 18 minute live recording, mixes what seems like radio voices with noise blasts, atmosphere, and even beats for great effect.

Overall, this is a good set that, although bringing together various pieces of other releases, seems to hang together well. Disc 1 weighs in at 66 minutes, disc 2 weighs in at 69 minutes, and disc 3 weighs in at 64 minutes, so it isn't one of those sets that breaks up one album worth of music into multiple discs to make it seem more impressive. And the price is right when you get it directly from Malignant, so it's definitely worth picking up.
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Artist: Voice of Eye (@)
Title: Anthology 2: 1992-1996
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Transgredient Records (@)
Rated: *****
Voice of Eye has been particularly busy lately. I guess they're making up for 10 years of lost time in which they built an "Earthship" house in the deserts of New Mexico (the photos on their website are particularly impressive). However, this is not new material, but rather a compilation of limited releases, live recordings, and compilation appearances from the period between 1992-1996. One would think that after almost 20 years in some cases that the music would sound dated. Luckily this is Voice of Eye we're talking about. Disc 1 is a much more varied group of tracks, owing to their disparate origins, but overall this is a great listen. From the opening track, 'Ascension of Joelene,' originally found on the Arrhythmia II compilation (now I'm feeling old; am I the only one who remembers this, let alone still has a copy of this comp?) with the pounding beats mixed with ethereal voices for ominous effect to the series of tracks from 'Sproket' that employ bicycles to create noisy industrial drone, this is an interesting mix.

Disc two is a bit more experimental but just as disjointed. 'Sonic Works Live Dress Rehearsal 1996' is almost an album's worth in its own right. Weighing in at just over 44 minutes, this is a monument to drone, fading into the background only to remind you of its presence as it glides along. There are noisy elements woven in, but overall the effect is soothing. It reminds me of, at least in the overall feel, of TAGC's 'Burning Water.' Next up, 'Tryst #8 ' excerpt' lulls the listener into complacency with the expected ethnoambient reminiscent of Steve Roach's works only to suddenly transform into Steven Stapleton's work as it progresses, becoming noisy, cut up, and disjointed in the most pleasant ways. This was a good time, and it makes sense considering it was originally part of a split tape with Big City Orchestra. 'Butterflies and Unicorns' once again makes a sudden shift with flute and strings and almost seems out of place after the much longer tracks that preceded it. Think In Gowan Ring and you're on the right track.

Overall, this is worth checking out. You already knew it would be good coming out on Trangredient, but this one demonstrates that Voice of Eye can create works that stand up over time. Disc 1 weighs in at around 74 minutes. Disc 1 weighs in at around 66 minutes.
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Artist: DREAM AFFAIR
Title: Endless Days
Format: CD
Label: Avant! Records (@)
Rated: *****
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Dream Affair printed their first release the last year. "All I Want" was a self released limited EP printed in 100 copies containing five tracks influenced by 80s cold wave and post punk. A year has passed and Dream Affair are back with their debut album titled ENDLESS DAYS which is out on the Italian Avant! records. The album, which is available in CD, vinyl and digital format, contains nine new tracks that bring you back to the early 80s when Cure, Modern English, The Sound and post punk bands like Uk Decay wrote the history of those sounds (I know that you have in mind thousands other bands that you think that deserve to be in the place of some of the ones I mentioned here, but I had to do some names and I did the names that fits the most). Dream Affair are taking the cold wave introspective atmosphere and mixed it with drum machine upbeat tempos adding post punk dry guitar riffs, flanger bass guitar plus synth pads / leads here and there. Male / Female vocal alternation help giving to the whole album a great sound and just check "Lucid" and "Drifting" to realize how cool is that. No matter if you preferred 4AD bands, new wave of post punk, because Dream Affair have them all and they deserve your attention... now!
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Artist: Diatribes & Abdul Moimeme (@)
Title: Complaintes de Marée Basse
Format: CD
Label: Insubordinations Netlabel (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of these artists before I got this in the mail, but in reading the instrument listings, which includes things like springs, metronome, metallic objects, along with the traditional things like prepared guitars, cymbals, and snare drums, you get a sense of what you are in for. This is pretty interesting experimental improvisational music of the Musique concrète variety. I've listened to the disc a few times and that is the best description that I could come up with. The compositions hang together loosely with elements of chance thrown in as chains clank and rattle on pavement, drums pound softly in the distance, and at times the whole thing threatens to fall apart in a wall of chaotic noise. I don't think that I would put this in with harsh noise artists like MSBR and the like, but would rather file this with Zoviet France and Hafler Trio. That said, the best comparison I can come up with is Bob Ostertag for those familiar with his work. Overall, this is a good listen. This album weighs in at around 47 minutes.
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