Music Reviews

Phonothek: Lost in Fog

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 24 2016
Artist: Phonothek
Title: Lost in Fog
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber
Rated: *****
Phonothek is a duo from Georgia whose vision of Dark Ambient is characterized by a sense of melody embodied by the use of real instruments as the trumpet, the most prominent used, shifting the focus of the track towards songs rather than soundscape. It's another example of how this attitude seems to be a vision of this label as other releases by Cryo Chamber shows this musical elements.
The initial drone of "Old Swings" covers a soundscape of small noises and evolve in a slow melody played by a trumpet. The intricate layers of sound at the core of "Last Train" reveals a sense of narrative that "She was in a Dream" confirms as the return of the trumpet marks the unity of musical development.
"Something Happened" oscillates between ambient and field recordings while "Heavy Thoughts" return to the form already displayed at the beginning of this release. The long notes of "Dancing with the Ghost" creates an atmosphere of tension which is almost resolved by "Clown is Dead" as its final part is vaguely reminiscent of some industrial influences with his martial drumming. "Lost in Fog" closes the circle of this release with the return of the trumpet and the sound of the bells which closes this release with a bunch of question.
Apart from the consideration that this release is based on a fistful of ideas which are reworked an almost all track, with vague sense of boredom toward the end of the listening, there's a sense of atmosphere and writing which generates the wish of another listening. Only for fans of the genre.

free_quenz: Garten

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 23 2016
Artist: free_quenz
Title: Garten
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Klanggold (@)
Rated: *****
If you just focus on the supposed result on body and mind of music, you could label this older entry in Andreas Ubersetz'z imprint Klanggold, the last one I listened of a package sent by Andreas himself, could be quickly labeled as relaxing. A careful listener will notice how many interesting details this collaborative project by label owner and Gregor Quade barely camouflaged behind their seemingly placid sonic streams: most of the tracks seems to have been roughly live-recorded by external mics instead of typical recorders, as if they virtually tried to render the experience of improvisational sessions genuinely without regarding of possible sonic deburring as well as sneezes, coughs, cracking objects, sonic overpressures, outdoor pouring rain and other (supposedly unexpected) interferences. They gave preference to the imperfection of immediacy and unpredictability to the icy perfection of artificially clean recording techniques, and such a choice turned the smooth piano tones and the peaceful frequencies by Gregor, that got gently modified by Andreas, who also cared field recordings, strangely enchanting. Join them in their sonic garden!

Jeff Mills: Free Fall Galaxy

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 23 2016
Artist: Jeff Mills
Title: Free Fall Galaxy
Format: CD + Download
Label: Axis Records
Distributor: N.E.W.S.
Jeff Mills needs no introduction- IT'S JEFF MILLS. His legendary status is such that he could release the sound of him eating his breakfast and brushing his teeth and it would still sell in numbers that most of the other artists reviewed on this site would be envious of. The danger of course is that once you reach such a level, there's no obligation to put any effort in, and a half-baked artist album can be knocked out on a whim.

Luckily though, nothing like that has happened here. Mr Mills- or perhaps I should just call him 'sir'- has clearly put together "Free Fall Galaxy" as a labour of love, a deeply sincere artistic project on the head-bending sci-fi theme of a chaotic galaxy operating outside of the usual physical laws. It's a fictional concept that Mills has completely made up, as far as I can tell, but both the music and the accompanying promo tackle the subject with not only a straight face, but a downright stern face.

So here are thirteen tracks which sound like they have been moulded out of radio telescope data of this distant galaxy, fed into Mills' synths and arpeggiators and translated into frequencies we can hear. Much of it is deeply experimental, some of it is borderline drone, and while there are loops and patterns in it in tracks like the rather bleepy "Aurora", more often than not it bears more of a resemblance to a modern-day reimagining of the Radiophonic Workshop than to techno as we know it (captain).

Several of the tracks recall Tangerine Dream, none more so than the 17-minute epic "Entering (The Free Fall Galaxy)", with some others being more reminiscent of Jean Michel-Jarre in their production, except with a sometimes stoic determination to avoid melody.

"Inner Synthesis" has a pressing synth bassline building throughout, threatening to invite its big buddy the kick drum, but the kick drum never appears, the sense of urgency drifts and we wander back into the ethereal. The kick does finally make cameo appearances in "Solar Crossroads", "Tri-angularism" and the three-minute workout "Rabid Star Clusters". These are among the shortest tracks on the album, rare and strangely unexplained foray into club sounds- and the sounds people may more commonly associate with Jeff Mills. It's as though we stop off at a stellar disco on our way through deep space. The structure of the album makes these numbers stand out like a sore thumb, and anyone planning a truly mesmeric relaxing experience with the album will need to set up a playlist with those tracks excluded.

The production quality is exemplary throughout, this is expert stuff with all the polish of a project that's been a long time in the making. Hit this release at the wrong angle and you might find it self-indulgent and pretentious, but if you're in the right mood, a classic spaced out, chilled out, zen mentality with a yearning for digital sci-fi, this is an epic journey. The only real mystery around it is with the slightly schizophrenic ordering, that bounces us chaotically between ambience and rhythm.

Conduct: Borderlands

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Jul 20 2016
Artist: Conduct (@)
Title: Borderlands
Format: CD
Label: Blu Mar Ten Music (@)
Rated: *****
Even if Robin Andrews and Chris Edwards, the men behind the curtains of Conduct, don't actually wink at dance floors by catchy sonorities, you will easily realize why many well-known big names of drum'n'bass scene - including Noisia, London Elektricity, Reso or Doc Scott, to name a few of them) - keep on supporting their outputs after an attentive listening to their recent release on the appreciated imprint Blu Mar Ten. Their music tries to intertwine more or less fast-rolling patterns, which sometimes get closer to 170 bpm, and masterfully crafted harmonies or soundtrack-like melodies. "Borderlands" could be considered their very first album, but their skills in handling two symbiotic and seemingly contrasting entities in their sound could be more spontaneously feature more trained sound makers as you can easily guess since the opening tune "Meraki" - the title is maybe a reference to the well-known company founded by two former MIT PhD students -, where touching orchestral cinematic samples peacefully share the same nest with more aggressive percussive patterns. Their passion for soundtracks spurts on the following track "Archaic", where echoes of Western movies got evoked by an excellent guitar sound and drum patterns that seem to evoke the battle of two gunfighters while their bullets melts as a consequence of the red-hot temperature of a forgotten desert place, the place where this imaginary scene could occur, and this kind of reverie and sonic interferences occur here and there in many moments of the album, such the brilliant "Bat Country" - a track inspired by a scenic place in between Los Angeles and Las Vegas -. The grandiose appearance of a piano in "Piano Tunes", spiced by robotic hiccups and catchy mid-tempo, and the likewise emotional breaching of African scents over the hyper-real melancholic breezes of "Turmoil" precede the title-track "Borderlands", one of the highest moment of the whole album that is going to meet the tastes of the lovers of the most "scientific" side of drum'n'bass (Photek, Teebee). Tunes like "Faux", "Grand Panjadrum" or the bizarre hybrid between Vivaldi-like aria, alien vocals over smashing hits of kalimba and wooshing synths in "Beta's Error" as well as "Silkworm" - maybe the more predictable moment of the whole album - could resemble the very first steps of The Upbeats or Faun. Last but not least - even doubly important - the final track "Divergence", where the overlapping between natural and artificial sonorities, severe seriousness and light-heartedness, yin and yang, light and shade complete such a bipolar consecration.

Oren Ambarchi / Stefano Pilia / Massimo Pupillo: Aithein

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Jul 18 2016
Artist: Oren Ambarchi / Stefano Pilia / Massimo Pupillo
Title: Aithein
Format: 12"
Label: Karlrecords (@)
Rated: *****
The name of the brilliant Australian composer and multi-instrumentalist Oren Ambarchi is maybe the better known name of this trio, having been one of the most incontinent musician in the last 20 years by means of an incredible number of collaborations - the most famous ones are maybe those with John Zorn, Phil Niblock, Sunn O))), Evan Parker, Jim O'Rourke, Keiji Haino, Z'EV, Otomo Yoshihide and Richard Pinhas - and solo works, but it could be a matter of statistics as the Italian virtuosos that grouped together Oren have a likewise enviable musical path. Electric bass player Massimo Pupillo was one of the founding member of jazz-core trio ZU and could brag about excellent collaborations such as the ones with Mats Gustafsson, Paul Nilssen-Love, Lasse Marhaug and both Brötzmann (father Peter and son Caspar), while Stefano Pilia worked on many awesome sound installation after a strong activism in the Italian punk and rock more or less underground area and grouping together two other big names of the contemporary scene like David Grubbs and Andrea Belfi. I could have been influenced by the inspiring cover artwork that Sara D'Uva made for the silk-screened sleeve of this release, but their guitar-driven blend in between progressive, avant-garde, post-rock and drone sound to me as a possible soundtrack for this sort of Kali Yuga that mankind is currently experiencing at the mercy of the numbing power of media and technology. A plenty of whirling emotions and thoughts are going to run over the 33 minutes lasting suite from the very first sonic slices of the first titled "Burn" - whose preface sounds like the one of a sci-fi movie - to the rising shimmering explosions of the last minutes of "Shine". Have a check.

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