Music Reviews

1982: Chromola

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 28 2017
Artist: 1982
Title: Chromola
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Hubro Music
After a couple of collaborative releases, the trio confusingly labelling themselves 1982 return to first principles for an improvisation-heavy mood album with an instrumental core of violin, fiddle, harmonium and drums, but an outlook which is closer to both drone and soundtrack than to the folk or jazz that that ensemble of instruments may suggest.

Over slowly shifting hums, sometimes warm, sometimes discordant, the string instruments of choice plaintively wail in an often structureless and melancholic meandering. Slow and gentle drumming provides the structure, sometimes in the region of 90bpm.

Though the ingredients remain the same, there’s a broad diversity of styles between the seven pieces. Sometimes, such as on second track “06:19” (all the tracks are identified only by duration rather than having names), the patterns drift closer to a verse-chorus form, albeit not very close, and when this happens it does have a faintly celtic folk lilt to it. “07:00”, by comparison, is a stripped-down and freeform alternative, with spontaneous percussive noises and a more reluctant smattering of bowed notes. More militaristic use of steady snare drums gives “04:03” an after-the-battle flavour, while “04:45” with its dafter harmonium playing in particular has a more playful, almost silly touch of the avantgarde about it.

It’s an accomplished set of improvisations from a trio with a clearly broad scope, and while it possibly wanders in so many different directions that it begins to lose coherence as a forty-minute listening album, it certainly has a lot of class.

Mike Cooper: Reluctant Swimmer / Virtual Surfer

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 25 2017
Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: Reluctant Swimmer / Virtual Surfer
Format: LP
Label: Discrepant (@)
Rated: *****
Saluted as 'the icon of post-everything' according to Lawrence English's words, Mike Cooper returns on excellent Discrepant catalogue by a sort of aural documentary, collecting the recording of a live set this creative artist made at the Controindicazioni Festival of Improvised Music in Rome in October 2003. Ideally divided into four movements, which can be considered as two as it seems that Mike (now living his sixties) slowly prepared the sonic soil in the first half of each set for the cover song he performed in the second one, they belong to a moment where the seed of that agonizing and reckless exoticism sometimes evoked by his recent experiments on lap steel guitar were still audible. It's pretty amazing to notice that some sonic strategies in the slowly processed movements could vaguely resemble the ones that contemporary artists like Fennesz are spreading in our days; such an approach, combining electric scorch marks on guitar-driven melodies, diluted frequencies that could be matched to the scientific tracking of the dream activity of a drunkard who fell asleep on yellow fluffy pillows, field recordings that sound like coming from "yellowing" printed pictures and other sonic freaks appearing like ghosts here and there over an impressive combination of real-time sampling, digitally processed sounds and minimal guitar loops, is particularly evident in "Virtual Surfer", gently merged with the endearing dejected hug of the lyrics of 60s folk singer Fred Neil's "The Dolphins", looking like an interplay due to the way the slightly changed medley ("I’ve been searching/For the dolphins in the sea/And sometimes I wonder/Do THEY ever think of me") fades into a feast that could be matched to the imitation of some more or less telepathic chat between the smart mammals quoted by the song. In order to give you an idea of what you could listen to "Reluctant Swimmer", the other half of this release, you could imagine an American-folk song inadvertently performed by a medieval automata or by clocks in the lab of a clockmaker, occasionally oiled by flanger effects and wooshing sounds, before the track fades out in the cover of the raconteurish caress of the ode "Movies is Magic" by Van Dyke Parks. The cover I'm using here refers to "Reluctant Swimmer" comes from the mind of collage artist by Evan Crankshaw, but the one related to "Virtual Surfer" is likewise beautiful.

Zeitkratzer: Performs Songs From The Albums "Kraftwerk" And "Kraftwerk 2"

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 23 2017
Artist: Zeitkratzer
Title: Performs Songs From The Albums "Kraftwerk" And "Kraftwerk 2"
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: Karlrecords (@)
The music of Kraftwerk needs less introduction than almost any other, and has been reinterpreted in dozens of different ways by everyone from Rammstein to Fatboy Slim to the Cardigans- and more than a few classical and avantgarde reinterpretations as well. Does this release stand out as bringing something new? Not really. Is it good fun and surprisingly successful? Yes it is.

Focussing only on the earlier Kraftwerk albums which had a thinner and arguably more abrasive tone, the ensemble of woodwind, strings, a couple of brass instruments, piano and drums faithfully recreates the barren soundscape that was originally electronic, in an almost exclusively acoustic way. It’s admirable for its attention to detail and an excellent tribute.

In the parts with steady drumbeats, particularly the opener “Ruckzuck”, the tone overall is reminiscent of Jeremy Deller’s “Acid Brass” in some ways; live performance trying to emulate extremely quantized electronic patterns in a way that doesn’t kill off the energy required for expression. If this takes the ensemble out of their comfort zone, then for the rest of the first side of the LP- “Spule 4”, “Strom” and “Atem”- they are clearly on more comfortable ground with the sparse and experimental, occasionally concrète ambiences.

“Klingklang” is a highlight, becoming a jazz number at points with some lovely double bass and flute work. Final track “Megaherz” has utterly beautiful clarinet tones (I’m a sucker for a sad clarinet) over a distant bowed mood and is rather lush too.

While reworking Kraftwerk in a new context is certainly not a new idea, the very successful and faithful, restrained approach throughout “Performs…” makes it a welcome arrival and certainly worth hearing. Apparently a second tranche of reworked early Kraftwerk songs is imminent and will form a second volume to this work, and I’ll certainly want to listen to it.

Olivier Alary: Fiction / Non-Fiction

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 17 2017
Artist: Olivier Alary
Title: Fiction / Non-Fiction
Format: CD + Vinyl
Label: 130701
“Fiction / Non-Fiction” is selected highlights from Olivier’s film score work over the last decade, since hanging up the boots of his Ensemble alias that had released work on Rephlex and Alias.

Detached from any mention of the films or scenes to which these scores apply, what’s left is a collection of seventeen short atmospheric pieces that blend lush, slow and soft orchestral sounds with extremely sparing and sympathetic use of electronics, effects, and gentle drones. These are moods, that do not appear from what I can hear to be tied, either slavishly or loosely, to on-screen cues like you would find in many scores.

Two different film orchestras, a choir, a string quartet and guest appearances from pianists on “Arrivée” and “Dancing Bottle” and a saxophonist on “Yu Shui” and “Flooding” give things an incredibly rich and beautiful tone. Technically this may not be a debut album, but few debut albums can live up to the production quality- and probably the budget- of this.

Despite being a compilation, there’s a consistency here so strong that you could believe this was all score from a single movie- albeit a movie with a near-constant sense of melancholy and very few jokes in it. The artwork, a broad, tree-lined and deeply grey implication of endless journeying, is very apt.

Highlights include the suspense of “Juanicas”, the traditional but still powerful sorrow-strings of “Flooding”, and the faint echoes of Philip Glass in “Pulses”.

It’s a stunning collection, if slightly lacking in emotional diversity, and when I become a hotshot film director making a tear-jerking film about beautiful emptiness, I now know who to turn to for the score.

Simon Kölle: Ave Mater (OST)

 Posted by Ivan Racheck (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Mar 15 2017
Artist: Simon Kölle (@)
Title: Ave Mater (OST)
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: MovieScore Media (@)
Distributor: MovieScore Media
Rated: *****
There is magic to be heard in Simon Kölle's score for Ave Mater (Vilsen), with individual moments of beauty that make the album worth every penny. Released on the highly-touted soundtrack label MovieScore Media and already award winning on several international festivals.

This album is pure suspense with liturgical moments from the choir which makes me think of the classical soundtrack of "Omen".
It's dark, satanic and beautiful!

The highlights of the score for Ave Mater are the themes and the mix of choir, electronics and orchestral elements. It's a highly original score at times working its way towards the cue "Lost in the Dark and Final Confrontation".

The cues I love the most on this masterpiece are in the beginning and in the end. The absolute favorite for me is "Lost in the Dark and Final Confrontation" because everything comes together in that 7-minute-long track.

In terms of compositional structure, this album is very good. We know Simon from his early years but see him now becoming a fantastic film composer.

Outside of the thematic cues, Ave Mater contains several standout tracks of symphonic and choral beauty.

We can now only hope that MovieScore Media also release this album as a CD but until then it can be found on ITunes, Amazon and Spotify.
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