Music Reviews

Serph: El Esperanka

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 20 2013
Artist: Serph
Title: El Esperanka
Format: CD
Label: Noble (@)
Rated: *****
Despite his recalcitrance in self-exposing on live stages and the mysterious veil on his identity, Tokyo-based electronic wizard Serph keeps on catching many listener's ears by means of this graceful brand new album, the fourth one of a hopefully big batch, which follows his acclaimed "Heartstrings" and renews and enhances all the distinctive features that justified the incredible sales of his past releases and recently fertilized the dry grounds of dance music by means of his new dance-oriented project Reliq. There's even a logical connection with his previous album , where he seems to describe an utopian world, as suggested by the title "El Esperanka" - a neologism, supposedly coming from the combination of "esperanca", Spanish word for "hope", and "ankh", the ancient Egyptian "key of life" -. Whatsoever blossom Serph is expecting to harvest, listeners will easily bask his musical efflorescences, which bud by means of gorgeous uplifting melodies which swing between jazzy tunes, childish roundelays, easier J-pop themes and springy overjoyed explosions (they could even surmise the hooking melodies of tv or radio jingles or pre-set songs of toy keyboards), breathtaking sparkling rhythm sections, twisting pinwheels and confetti of sonic slides (he reaches peaks of intriguing intricacy on tracks like "Vesta", "Wizardmix" or "Ankh"), refreshing whirlwind of popping splashes and chugs ("Shift", "Magicalpath", "Curve"), sudden chromatic and tonal permutations ("Felixz", "Rem") and the most amazing aspect lies in the fact that he blends so many elements with a built-in adroitness and a catchy vivaciousness which could be associated to nothing but a beating of wings by a butterfly or a fine-feathered bird. The reference to Ankh, the so-called key of life, could be a key for the access to the positive conceptual and "spiritual" (quixotic?) world, which Serph musically daubs, where a pell-mell dimension is no more a source for torment, which vexes a reasoning mind with the obsession for geometrical order, but a thrilling path to happiness!

Anatomia De Vanitats: The Anthropic Principle

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 20 2013
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Artist: Anatomia De Vanitats
Title: The Anthropic Principle
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Anatomia De Vanitats is Mercé Spica from ELDARs solo project, and this album is inspired by the Anthropic Principle stating that any valid theory of the universe must be consistent with the existence of human beings.
Musically speaking this an almost classic dark ambient album searching for a clearer sci-fi atmosphere than other release of this label.
"Reflector" opens this release with a slowly moving filtered noise with some small found sound for the creation of the atmosphere. "Igneus" moves on quieter territories for the first part while the second is on noisier ones. "Ether" is almost on dark ambient territories with sharp insert of noise above menacing layer of sound and a loop of didgeridoo. "Fluid" is an almost quiet atmospheric interlude based on found sounds to "Absolut" that opens quietly with careful sculpted sounds and is slowly colored by a drone and sparse metallic beats. "Material" is constructed on dark drones while "Geminal" is based on the noises similar to the ones used in the album until a sharp constructed slowly line close the track and serves as an introduction to "Atomic" that close the album in an almost sci-fi cinematic atmosphere in his uses of resonances.
This albums is based on carefully constructed atmosphere, with the aid of the mastering by Simon Heath, on the usual form of the genre and so, even if is not a ground breaking release, it reveal the search for a personal interpretation of dark ambient. A really nice release for fans.

Giulio Aldinucci: Tarsia

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 17 2013
Artist: Giulio Aldinucci (@)
Title: Tarsia
Format: CD
Label: Nomadic Kids Republic
Distributor: Experimedia
Rated: *****
In an interview with the website Fluid Radio ( Italian composer described the origins of the title Tarsia, his first release under his own name.

"The term Tarsia (or Intarsia) denotes an ancient technique of wood inlaying. The first examples of this practice date back to the XIV century and come from the Siena region. I have chosen this title because I consider this technique similar to the that of a lot of contemporary electro-acoustic music. To make these wood inlays they used rare and carefully selected natural elements, which were then treated, and sometimes individually coloured, and subsequently placed next to each other in order to create complex patterns, which is what many musicians within this field tend to do."

It seems like the terms 'field recordings', 'modern classical', and 'soundscapes' could be interchangeable, so often are they found in the same sentence. It seems like every time an artist lays a cello or a piano to tape, it is accompanied by handheld tape recordings, the sounds of rippling brooks, and the ringing of churchbells. It is hard to stand out in this saturated field, but Giulio Aldinucci achieves this rare balance, by creating whole compositions, that don't merely sound like 'classical lite' with some voicemail pasted on top.

The composer achieves this effect by carefully mixng and balancing the sounds, creating a delicate interplay that suggests technical mastery and a sensitive ear. Most of the sounds are synthetic in nature, overlaid with pristine soundscapes: crystal running rivers, dogs barking, snippets of conversation. It seems like a memory of wandering the Italian countryside. Aldinucci's music may have originated in a soundcard or a circuit board, but they beautifully complement the acoustic recordings with masterful mixing, making a cohesive whole, like the wooden boxes Tarsia is named after.

Once upon a time, a record like this would be merely considered 'new age' and left at that, mainly due to the soothing synth ambiance that makes up most of this record. However, with synthesizer opuses making a heavy comeback for the last 10 years or so, perhaps we are ready to consider these electronic instruments on their own terms. I would like to amend the newage tag with 'heavenly' or dare i even say it, 'beautiful'.

Giulio Aldinucci, and the Nomadic Kids Republic that released this, are ones to watch out for, seemingly creating reams of gorgeous modern classicism. Physical copies of Tarsia are long gone, but you can stream or download copies from the label's bandcamp site.

Lovely stuff! Recommended.

Atiq & EnK: Fear Of The Unknown

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 15 2013
Artist: Atiq & EnK
Title: Fear Of The Unknown
Format: CD
Label: Mindtrick Records/Tympanik Audio (@)
Rated: *****
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown", said the legendary American writer H.P.Lovecraft and this fresh and somehow unknown twosome by Guido Van Den Brink aka Atiq, founder of Mindtrick Records and known in Rotterdam for its intense activity as a promoter of many notorious parties such as "Jungle Soundclash" and "Rave!!!", and Pim Arnoldus aka EnK, music producer and guitar player in the Dutch nu-metal band Brainshake, trace the ancestral sense of the above-mentioned definition and above all the strength of its semantic and spiritual payload by means this remarkable debut album, which encapsulate many acts of IDM and electronic hybrids as well as the most interesting declension of heavy dubstep - I could namedrop Hecq, Venetian Snares, Burial or even some oldest acts such as Beefcake, Flint Glass, Elixir (a project by Martin Stovey, Steve Jones and Richard Pushong, which dropped some interesting stuff on Quatermass, sub-label of SubRosa) or Bill Leeb's Synaesthesia - with a deep penchant for psychedelic orchestral inserts. In reality they don't depart from Lovecraft's quote, but these skilled guys cite some words by Dr.Wayne Dyer they sampled in the initial track "Stay With The Familiar" ("Fear of the Unknown...They are afraid of New Ideas...They're loaded with Prejudices, not based upon anything in reality, but based on if something is new, I reject it immediately; because it is Frightening to Me. What they do instead, is just Stay with the Familiar. You know, to me, The Most Beautiful things in all the Universe, are The Most Mysterious"...a very meaningful message for our troubled planet), which perfectly sets listener's mood for the whole album, whose main quality lays in its intimate narrative structure. There are many stylistical peaks all over the release: the cathartic suspense, which have been enhanced by entrancing female vocals, of "Moonlit Tea Party", the heavy lock step, the suffocated melodies and the sinisterly silvery atmosphere of "My Obligation", the somber crystalline music box on "The Glass Kingdom", the cinematic Gregorian chant-driven mesmerizing dubstep of 'Like an Angel's Feather' - absolutely my favorite track! -, the meteor craters of the mercurial dub on "Sim One" (nice track with samples of Orson Welles' narration of "Future Shock", a documentary by visionary American writer Alvin Toffler) and "Three Minutes", the bites of dubstep on a Jarre-like synth-driven melodic sequence on "Shards Of Brilliance", which precedes the final resolution "The Moment Of Truth", which got spelled by Mike Redman's rapping. Fear of the unknown must be beaten and these guys proposed their amazing sonic strategy.

Solar Bears: Supermigration

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 11 2013
Artist: Solar Bears (@)
Title: Supermigration
Format: CD
Label: Planet Mu (@)
Rated: *****
After the acclaimed debut "She Was Coloured In" in 2010, the epicurean stylish Irish duo of Solar Bears comes back on stages with an adorable album, which lacquers listener's earsdrums by means of fluoroscopic and somehow melancholic synth-pop tune as well as a certain dramatic hook and tastes sweet as honey thanks to the topping of ingredients which sound taken from an imaginary recipe book written by proper celebrity chefs of modern and contemporary music such as Boards Of Canada, Air, Stereolab, Vangelis, Death In Vegas, Giorgio Moroder and other knights of cosmic disco courtship, whose best insights seem to palpitate inside the artistic streak of many charming moments of this "Supermigration", a title inspired by Native American mystic culture and the legendary krautrock band Neu!. The lullaby-like piano introduction on "Stasis" resembles the beginning of late night old-fashioned radio-shows and precedes the amazing twist of "Cosmic Runner", where Solar Bears immediately hook listener's hearts and brains by means of an entrancing gyraton on electric guitar and gleaming synths and a tune which is very close to some similar stuff by Boards Of Canada. One of the best moment of the album has been reached on "Alpha People", a lovely synth-pop song sung by Sarah P, which could be described as an imaginary reinterpretation of Air sonorities by Love Spirals Downwards due to the similarities between Sarah P's voice and Suzanne Perry's one as well as the analogy with the style of the notorious French band, while the following "Love Is All", a sweet mixture of alluring synth-pop and electronic bossa nova, could resemble some moments of Stereolab. Its intimate coziness vanishes on the following angst-driven "The Girl that Played with Light", whose drilling guitar and progressive crescendo, which get embellished by absorbing reverbs, smooth melody and sonic preciosities, vaguely resembles above-mentioned Death In Vegas, whose masterpiece "Satan's Circus" crosses my mind on another synth-verdant track, "Komplex", even if under a more "angelical" guise. The opening intro "Statis" seems to be reprised on the deeply intimate jingle-like fathom interlude "You and Me (Subterranean Cycles)", while another substantial peak has been reached on the dazzling song "Our Future Is Underground", a subdued evocation of a shining memory, where present day magically irradiates the unforgotten luminosity by means of the mystical combination of guitar-driven lulling melody, joyful childish drumming and the voice of guest singer (and former Air collaborator) Beth Hirsch. The mindblowing cosmic ride of "A Sky Darkly" precedes the "bucolic" trot "Rising High", which get listeners ready to the engaging synth-disco of "Happiness is a Warm Spacestation", whose title summarize the bursts of sci-fi heat that are going to trigger emotional storms within nostalgic lovers of this kind of sonic juggernauts. The final bedroom rocker "Rainbow Collision" ends in style this psychedelic daydream, a proper musical trip which I cannot but recommend.

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