Music Reviews



George Lazarus U-731: By All Means

 Posted by Paul Muller   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 21 2014
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Artist: George Lazarus U-731 (@)
Title: By All Means
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Malignant Records (@)
'By All Means' is a new CD by Gordon Lazarus, also known as U-731, and Malignant Records. Released in February of this year, Lazarus is joined on this album by Andy Grant of Vomit Arsonist fame and John Stillings of Steel Hook Prosthesis. The result is a strongly drawn image of the power of totalitarianism as seen through the bleak lens industrial strength noise, distortion, menacing drones and spoken words from the speeches of historic personalities. The opening track, 'Forced Neurotic Displacement,' immediately sets the tone with the low drone of propeller-driven bombers heard slowly approaching and then passing directly overhead. A distorted voice is heard shouting out harsh commands amid the sound of explosions. There is the feeling of unstoppable violence and even the sound of the WWII-vintage aircraft is made more menacingly relevant by the high distortion ' it is as if we are looking back through the mist of time to experience the horror and none of the nostalgia. Track 7, 'Suo Gan/Last Rights,' is similar and incorporates the speech by Chamberlain announcing the beginning of the war over the invasion of Poland in 1939. This is accompanied by what sounds like a flight line of departing bombers. As the speech concludes there is the somber sound of women singing amid explosions and this evokes a very sad feeling ' the failure of civilization and the descent into total war. In the title track, By All Means, we hear the voice of Churchill, explaining the evacuation of Dunkirk, is interwoven with a speech by Adolf Hitler. The continuous buzzing drone establishes a kind of blurry equivalence between the two and there is the uncomfortable sense that we have inherited the evil which we sought to destroy. The historical theme continues into the 1960s with track 4, 'Aktion - Freedom Reaktion Resistance.' Here a cold war speech by John F. Kennedy is submerged in a sinister whirring roar that effectively translates the old fears of communist totalitarianism into a unsettling parallel to our present broken political system and reduced civil liberties. Perhaps the most effective track on the album is 'F.E.M.A. Care' where a female voice describes how certain present-day railway facilities have been changed in camps. There is a loud whirring, like some giant machine, accompanied by static so that not all the words are intelligible. But you catch bits and pieces: 'the war on drugs' morphs into 'prisons' that morph into 'concentration camps with gas furnaces.' Another voice is heard and the words 'CIA', 'martial law' and 'concentration camps' are repeated. Your mind begins to connect the dots and this produces a bleak vision of the future that is equally frightening and compelling. There are other tracks on this CD that use the same techniques, 'The Mechanics of Embalming' and 'Asphyxiant Collapse,' but these don't have the political punch of the others and come off as weaker by comparison. 'By All Means' is at its best when dealing with the history of totalitarianism and is an excellent illustration of the proverb that you must choose your enemies carefully because in achieving victory you will become them.

Bisclaveret: Theu Anagnosis

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 21 2014
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Artist: Bisclaveret
Title: Theu Anagnosis
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Rated: *****
This release is presented as 'a mystical-philosophical treatise of sorts' and, so, the name of a band like Coil starts to resonate in the first listenings and this could even be a good thing. The more evident difference with his obvious influence is the mix as, in this case, the voice is almost inaudible and becames closer to an instrument with his characteristic timbre, so it's a really cohesive sound.
The drone of 'Seven Lands Of Happiness' introduces the listener in fields where introspection is the keyword. The piano notes with the almost inaudible voice of 'Out Of The Depths Have I Cried Unto Thee, O Lord' reveals the search for a personal path in a known form. The flavor of the oriental beats of 'Three Sacraments' is enchanting while 'Two Ways To The Highest Truth' deals with the more obsessive paths of this genre.
The drone of 'Trio Deum' is colored by the whispers of the voice while 'Humani Sanctus' is more focused in the hypnotic beat. 'Dog's Blood For Love Of God' sounds like a modern lied for voice and piano while 'In The Hospital Of Lost Souls' closes this release with a song based on two distinct drones: a darker one in the first part and a brighter one as a canvas for the color of the voice.
This album is an example of, even if his musical content is reminiscent of his influence, there's the search for a development of a form that promises something meaningful. This is moon musick.

EXAUDI Ensemble: Exposure

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Odd / Field Recording
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Jul 20 2014
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Artist: EXAUDI Ensemble
Title: Exposure
Format: CD
Label: Huddersfield Contemporary Records (@)
Rated: *****
Have you ever suffered from that kind of hyperkulturemia that let you feel observed by family portraits or the people within framed paintings with arcadian or pastoral scenes inhabited by naked nymphes, fauns, puttoes and archers? If so, imagine they can finally speak and sings in order to jeet at your syndrome: they could probably sound like the opening 14-minutes lasting track Aaron Cassidy's "A painter of figures in rooms" by London-based Exaudi, an amazing vocal ensemble which seems to explore a possible bridge between canonic vocal music belonging to the traditions of early Baroque and High Renaissance and contemporary music. Founded by director James Weeks and soprano Juliet Fraser, the ensemble changes "register" on the following "Nakedness", where the first evanescent whisper-like vocals suddenly grows in intensity till those acutes which could break glasses on a solo-voice great piece which contrast with the above-mentioned sometimes chaotic and disquieting juxtaposition of voices and neighs(!), a vocal strategy which semms to have been followed by Bryn Harrison on "Eight Voices", even if the repetitiveness of its vocalisations sometimes get closer to monodic monotony. The ensemble deliberately plays with ambiguousness on Stephen Chase's five Jandl Songs ("why can i not", "trost in wolken", "suchen wissen", the heavenly "lied/song" and the buzzing "mein") settings by Austrian poet and translator Ernst Jandl (John Cage's fans maybe knows his name for his translation of "Silence"), as it's not clear if single voices are somehow matched or not. Another interesting experiment by the ensembles is the treble "Harmonizing (Artificial Environment no.7)" by Joanna Bailie, where vocals get closer (particularly on the second movement "William Tell") to onomatopoeic and scenic rendering, but according to my personal ear response the most fascinating experiments are the two final tracks where the remarkable hypnotical power of the slow oscillation on Richard Glover's "Corradiation" flows into the speckled and flippant vignettes of Claudia Molitor's "lorem ipsum". Exaudi provided one of the most amazing voice-based record I've ever heard.
Jul 20 2014
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Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues, Bertrand Gauguet, Ricardo Guerreiro
Title: Early Reflections
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This collaborative recording by Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and Ricardo Guerreiro on computer, with the guest appearance of Bertrand Gauguet on alto saxophone is maybe the most abstract release by this musical liason. I'm pretty sure that the most demanding listeners whose ears are trained to those free improvisational sessions which get closer to pure abstract sound art and reductionism will appreciate this long-lasting recording that this trio made in studio ("Wood") and on live stage ("Stone") by following more or less the same operational mode, where electronic sounds emphasize the lenghty tonal sequence where tones themselves seem to be like accidental events that meet Gauguet's breath and Rodrigues's rubbing and manage to excite listener's imagination. For instance the first part of "Stone" and the gradual saturation occurring between 18th and 21st minute could let you imagine about the sudden awakening in the middle of a nocturnal labyrinthine cornfield where the chirping of cicadas or the nearby flight of other nocturnal insects become frightening moments of a nightmarish rural experience. If you consider "Early Reflections" under an exquisitely technical viewpoint, the delicate manoeuvring on dynamics and sonic "consistency" as well as on surreal chromatic grasps of these two sessions is really remarkable.

Islaja: SUU

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Odd / Field Recording
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Jul 20 2014
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Artist: Islaja
Title: SUU
Format: CD
Label: Monika Enterprise (@)
Rated: *****
All those ones who know Finnish musician Merja Kokkonen aka Islaja for her foggy ethereal folk songs won't easily recognise her new musical skin or I'd rather call it her spacesuit for leisure time as you could have the impression that she collected many space-disco debris in order to make sonic collages between bewiching concision and limp roaming, whose osseous structures together with the alternance of lukewarm simple syth-driven melodies and frigid fixity fit with Gurun Gut's label Monika Enterprise aesthaetics as well as the iridescent temperament that Islaja shows on her songs where she sometimes disguise as a protective tiger, a predatory nocturnal wild beast or a poetess who doesn't need to be understood. Both under the musical and lyrical viewpoints, her songs have a tendency to wander off in daydreams or mantain a suitable distance with human emotions or listening gatecrashers in her personal world, that she lets just half-view. Some moments could surmise some stuff by The Knife, Nico, the above-mentioned Gudrun Gut or even some glossy artifacts from the 80ies, but there are many original clues that could let you think that Islaja just hangs off her own SUU's (Finnish word for mouth) words.


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