Music Reviews

Golden Oriole: Golden Oriole II

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 08 2018
Artist: Golden Oriole
Title: Golden Oriole II
Format: LP
An energetic, backwards-looking stab at recreating edgy, experimental instrumental 1970’s psychadelic prog rock, Golden Oriole’s second release hits its apparent target. Often manic guitar-led meanderings are bolted together with analogue effects and twiddles bounce off against rigid, sometimes tribal-tinged drum work that has the consistency and sometimes tone of a drum machine, but sometimes the complexity of a complete wig-out.

It’s made of two tracks, though each track has fairly distinct parts so this seems a little arbitrary. “The Waxwing Slain”, after a particularly aggressive opening, evolves into a longer more mesmeric shifting pattern in two parts. Three minutes before the end of the seventeen minute piece it drops out completely, to introduce a high-pitched tinnitus-tickling electronic screech to either brainwash or punish the loyal listeners.

Second track “Az Prijde Kocour” kicks off with similar punchiness, which this time takes longer to abate. When it finally settles it works itself into a strangely funk-channeling stepping-groove affair, as though aimed at the world’s twistiest dancefloor.

It’s a punchy and very focussed LP that will appeal to anyone who fondly remembers (even if they’re not old enough to remember) some of the experimental-guitar excesses of the 70’s.

Mike Cooper: Tropical Gothic

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 03 2018
Artist: Mike Cooper
Title: Tropical Gothic
Format: LP
Label: Discrepant
Mike Cooper uses his collection of guitars as a primary sound source, but wraps and envelops them in thick processing and ambience to create ‘ambient exotica soundscapes’. This release takes those soundscapes and fuses them back with more conventional instrumental song structures, sometimes bordering on pop, resulting in a rather idiosyncratic whole with a quite distinct flavour. While ‘exotica’ might sometimes bring with it connotations like ‘kitsch’ and ‘cheese’, more often than not this is a brooding collection of sonics from the underbelly of the same soundworld.

The first side of the LP is made up of eight short tracks, some just vignettes, ranging from the quirky Hawaiian-tinged lounge vibe of “Running Naked” to the slightly sinister ambiences of “Shindo’s Blues”.

The second side of the LP is entirely given over to the 18-minute piece “Legong / Gods Of Bali”, a more immersive wallowing in bells and reverb and gentle exotic rhythms that’s quite mesmerising if just sometimes shading a little too close to the ‘Glastonbury wigged-out hippy tent’ vibe.

Distinctive and full of character, it’s an unusual dark twist on tropical tones that tells its own story and tells it well.

Lars Graugaard, Grup Instrumental De Valencia, Joan Cervero: Engage And Share

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Oct 01 2018
Artist: Lars Graugaard, Grup Instrumental De Valencia, Joan Cervero
Title: Engage And Share
Format: CD + Download
Label: Kairos
Though recorded in 2017 and released in 2018, and although driven by some intriguing computer-based technology for spontaneous real-time composition, “Engage And Share” reminds me of 1960’s avantgarde classical music. A relatively conventional orchestral set-up, showcasing but but overly deferential to Graugaard’s work as a flautist, is instructed to break their melodic mould and work with contrasts between dischord and ambience, chaos and emptiness, with a blend of musical proficiency and energetic theatrics that makes it sound fresh.

After the title track feels like it wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking different sections of Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey”, second piece “Slonk” has a faintly more militaristic and urgent tone driven by low piano rolls and curt repetitive brass that gradually fades away into melancholy. Final piece “Blind Lemon” returns to the expressive ebb and flow approach, driven more by string this time and with a subsequently more silent-movie flavour in parts.

What once would have seemed musically cutting-edge and challenging now seems almost nostalgic but there’s certainly no harm in that here. Modern classical music is, on this evidence, alive and well.

Mose: Film Musik

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 27 2018
Artist: Mose
Title: Film Musik
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Klangbad
Not actually music from films, but more of a calling card 26-track sampler demonstrating what the five-piece Mose could come up with if ever asked to soundtrack a film, “Film Musik” is a collection of almost-always-instrumental musical vignettes. The source instrumentation is bluesy, rootsy guitar plucking and acoustic work with shades of jazz, that often sits quite comfortably in instrumental song and ballad territory (“uberland”, “fatigue”, the two “monolog” tracks). At other times there’s a more ambient and atmospheric approach where elements are allowed to meander more casually (“pause sucree”, “triptychon”, “perdu”, “am rand”).

In either case it’s consistently melancholic and downtempo, brooding slow motion material that does seem so spacious that it shows a deliberate intent to leave space for visuals.

The brief arrival of vocals on “molto prestuoso” is a welcome new element but doesn’t shake proceedings up at all, keeping things strictly bluesy. “Fallsucht” is a notable highlight, adopting a more heartbeat-esque pulsing groove that is a real foot-tapper.

Somewhere out there there’s a director or editor making a moody, introspective road movie that contrasts inner turmoil against beautiful landscapes, and this is the soundtrack they haven’t yet realised they need.

Miman: Ulme

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Sep 15 2018
Artist: Miman (@)
Title: Ulme
Format: CD
Label: Motvind
Rated: *****
The talented Norwegian musician Hans Kjorstad (starting his musical path when he played the violin at the age of 7 in Fron in Gudbrandsdalen, a small Norwegian village, that has a lively folk music scene) recently established his personal imprint Motvind - as a sister company to the Motvind Festival - by releasing the debut album by Miman, a trio he founded together with Egil Kalman (playing double bass and synthesizer) and Andreas Røysum (playing guitar and a clarinet). According to the notes (...and we have no reason to not trust them!), these three folks recorded "Ulme" with the support of Magnus Nergaard over three days in March 2017 during which they improvised in front of a fireplace (as you can guess by the title of the first song "Omkring Ilden", meaning "around the fire") in a cabin in the woods north of Oslo. Wood and fire are important elements of the set, as it seems the musicians constantly gave voice to them by means of scratches, hits, creaking noises, which don't disturb the delicate melodies on which they pop out like fairy entities or maybe like those mushrooms in the sylvan undergrowth of the nice cover artwork. Such an aural organization, combining flakes of electronics and acoustics leaning on a ground of references to Norwegian, British and Indian traditional sonorities, is particularly clear on "De Vises Club", the more extended track of the album, but it's clear on the other tracks - where they often change the way by which they assemble sounds - as well, covering a wide range going from quite abstract and almost not-musical improvisations ("Torre", "Skarvor") and bluesy moments ("VÄgen Ut") to the pastoral delicate transcendence of "Walden" - a reference to the masterpiece by Thoreau? I recommend to enjoy it while driving over lovely natural sets, as I did while driving around the pre-Apennine areas close to Bologna if you like driving without fearing twists and turns! - and the lovely reverie of the closing "Plaums Draum".
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