Music Reviews



The Use Of Ashes: White Nights: Flake Of Eternity

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 12 2012
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Artist: The Use Of Ashes
Title: White Nights: Flake Of Eternity
Format: CD
Label: Tonefloat (@)
Rated: *****
"Flake Of Eternity" is the final chapter of the trilogy "White Nights" by the stylistically iridescent Dutch band, born from the ashes of Ultra Movement-oriented Mekanik Kommando and named after a notorious album by Tom Rapp's Pearls Before Swine. Their daydreaming aura sometimes seems to concoct ith a subtle irony so that you could ask yourself if they keep on commemorating the use of ashes of that jeweller (his wife) sung by Tom Rapp who used ashes to clean coins and worship Gods or if they musically use ashes to invoke the souls of those dead bodies they came from! The sweet 60ies-like psychedelic-folk exhaling from some of their most lisergic and sunny tunes ("Being In Dreaming", "A Harmonics Secundus", "Look For The Sun" or the lovely "I Walk On A Beam"), which seems to come from the inspiration of a retired bomb disposal expert who spent years of his life in clearing Vietnamese war surplus after listening to Charlemagne Palestine seems to alternate with ideal punches setting traps for this dreaming state in a daze till its final atonement ("Hometown" is the nicest possible "farewell speech" to dismiss audience at the end of a concert!). The amazing crossbreed between improvisational folk and vocal experiments in "Little Garden", the amazing "From Nowhere To Nowhere" (an underlying quotation of Talking Heads' "Road To Nowhere" behind those field recordings which join the queue in a supermarket) and a sort of parody of radiophonic pop semantics in "XJ6 ... And The Radio Is On" (I don't know if the way of singing knowingly emulates Steven Wilson's honeyed style...dangerous for diabetics) accomplishes this anomalously oblique and lovely entrancing release.

Kane Ikin: Sublunar

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 12 2012
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Artist: Kane Ikin (@)
Title: Sublunar
Format: CD
Label: 12k (@)
Rated: *****
A set of imaginary wanderings in the outer space with many leaps over "moons" of our system with its load of emotional reverie, which has always inspired mankind seems to be the main theme of this entrancing debut full length album by Kane Ikin, who amalgamates a bunch of sonic tips and tricks and the charm of radio astronomy within his sound. The firsts mainly come with muffled strokes, distended puffs, a massive use of chorus and delay and proper percussive elements (chimes, bells, hang), which amplify the contemplative dimension of his sound, the latters through the retention of that noise, which sounds like tape hisses and echoes radio transmissions from outer space which many astronomers explain by attributing them to interferences of electromagnetic fields and cosmic powders. Kane Ikin doesn't scrub his sound from this noise particles and I'd say such a stylistical choice distintively marks his sound, which often manages to render the imaginary feeling of an astronaut while watching through the window of a starship. Many moments of the album could recall the sound of other sonic stargazers (Geir Jenssen's Biosphere or Pete Namlook), but Kane Ikin looks like percolating an high emotionality with its volatile vapours so that you could have the impression he recorded the album through the grabbing by a futuristic recorder on Planet Earth of many transmissions of one take sessions from the orbits of the satellites he mentions for the titles of Sublunar's tracks or you could just imagine that his sound equipment includes just two powerful radars, one header for cosmos and one headed for his inner universe. "Sublunar" could be considered as a musical essay on how celestial mechanics can influence inner gears.

Maculatum: The Nameless City

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Maculatum
Title: The Nameless City
Format: CD
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
Are you ready for some Dark Ambient? I mean some real, heavy dark ambient, the kind that nightmares are born of. Well, here it is! Maculatum is the collaboration of Malignant Records artists Collapsar and Rasalhague (Thibaud Thaunay and Kerry Braud) and 'The Nameless City' is their first outing together, and hopefully not their last. The title of the album, 'The Nameless City' is taken from H. P. Lovecraft's 1921 short story by the same name, considered the first Cthulhu Mythos story. Being that Lovecraft and Dark Ambient go together like coffee and donuts, it's no wonder that Maculatum pay tribute to the master of cosmic horror with this ode to the abyss.

You begin by sliding slowly into the void, as uneasy sounds and presences drift by. Then, an expanse of vast proportions opens up, like some dreadful subterranean cavern. There are remnants of an ancient reptilian civilization in glowing hieroglyphs on the walls, and hints of its ineffable demonic glory as ritual percussion plays in your mind. (Plays with your mind is more like it.) Exploring further, a strange (slowed down and backwards) voice from an unseen presence introduces you to a world hitherto unknown, as the primal percussion lays down its totemic groove. And just when you thought you were beginning to sus this bizarre world within a world, the floor drops out and you find yourself floating in the birthing chamber of all that is abominable and contradictory to life as you know it.

Maculatum make use of huge chambered ambiences, and the chittering, slithering sounds that invade this sanctum are beyond creepy. When rhythms do emerge they are either tribally ritualistic or alien machine-like, with an inclination toward the horrific. Yet, it is all dream-like and surreal, as if the experience comes from hallucinating the collective subconscious of worshipers of some terrible elder gods. (Even the sampled movie dialogue towards the end of 'Part IV' didn't detract from this preternatural ambience.) The ritual percussion in 'Part V' is rather strange, having almost a Native American beat, but also other ethnic touches. The final track on 'The Nameless City,' 'Part VI' is pure dark ambient delight, and winds things down with delicious drones, huge reverberation, and doomful tones and the last gasps of an unfathomable ancient civilization scattered in the sand of the desert winds. It couldn't be more appropriate.

This release is limited to 500 copies so don't put off acquiring it figuring it will be around forever. It won't.

Crisopa: Biodance

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Crisopa (@)
Title: Biodance
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Here is another n5MD release, this one by Crisopa, a Madrid-based electronic composer, and 'Biodance' is my first exposure to his music. The album has a messy intro (obviously titled 'Intro') with an effluvia of all sorts of elements that didn't endear me to it at first, but the structure fell into place with the second track, 'Cosmos Wallclock,' with some nicely sustained belltones and measured percussion. Crisopa uses shoegazer elements but it never sounds quite like a shoegazer band. There is often a spacey fluidity to the music, and elements Crisopa incorporates, such as the angelic choir samples on 'Es Todo Mental' are a very nice touch. What really knocked me out was the uber-memorable, simple but engaging, repeated echoed electric piano figure that begins 'Que Nos Ataquen' in contrast to the hazy distorted guitar and ramshackle percussion that joins it. Could have used a bit more bass though; it was there but a little buried.

Crisopa's judicious use of percussion is inventive and enhances the music the music in often unexpected ways, and likewise with the voices he uses. Sometimes the percussion is controlled chaos, something you wouldn't think would work with such spacey atmospheres, ambiences and melodies, but somehow, it works just fine. There is a lot of repetition within tracks but there is a constant building as well, and often a break from the conventional. 'Ruled By Strange New Laws' is absolutely mind-blowing the way it swirls in your head under phones. In fact, there isn't much that isn't mind-expanding on 'Biodance' in some way or another.

Crisopa's 'Biodance' seems to be a whole new take on cinematic ambient soundscape; one that challenges the listener at nearly every turn, while providing a sufficient amount of blissed-out cosmicness. Even the glitchy vocals of 'Last Membrane' [Adapt Remix] couldn't sink this Titanic, but the [Kit De Crein Remix] of 'North Left' that ends the album had me wondering what the original might have sounded like as the rhythm got into this off-kilter groove that left me feeling a bit uneasy as it was the final track. It did find its footing though, so all's well that ends well. 'Biodance' is Crisopa's debut, and while a very worthy start, I'm looking forward to hearing what he'll come up with next.

Lights Out Asia: Hy-Brasil

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 11 2012
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Artist: Lights Out Asia (@)
Title: Hy-Brasil
Format: CD
Label: n5MD (@)
Rated: *****
Lights Out Asia is the duo (formerly trio) of Mike Ystad (electronics) and Chris Schafer (guitar, vox) from Milwaukee. 'Hy-Brasil' is their 5th, release and latest on the n5MD label, and they've also appeared on several compilations. This album is my first exposure to Lights Out Asia. 'Hy-Brasil' takes its name from a mythical phantom island off the west coast of Ireland, appearing in Brigadoonish fashion only once every seven years. (Well, Brigadoon was once every hundred years, but who's counting.) There's a bit more to the mythology than that (comparisons to Atlantis), so it could be viewed as a concept album, but you'd have to be pretty deep into it to get the concept.

I spent a long time listening to the album prior to the review just to make sure it was digested properly, and I keep coming up with the same conclusions. There is some achingly beautiful blissed-out material on 'Hy-Brasil', like a mix of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis with your favorite gauzy shoegazer (take your pick; Robin Guthrie comes to mind). Multilayered, cinematic and ethereal; dreamy, languorous melodies, and the occasional wall of guitar distortion that keeps things from getting too new-agey. From the opening track, 'The Eye of All Storms' I have to admit I was impressed...almost. Schafer's voice (on the tracks with vocals) is often a soprano that floats over the music like a gossamer canopy, or an angel in passing. Not up-front, but mixed in with the music like another instrument. His vocals are full of passion and emotion, giving an impetus to the music that blends well with the huge sound created by this duo here.

There are plenty of ambient elements too, from birds, to background voices, to little electronic touches that sound nearly organic. The music ebbs and flows, and sometimes roils like the sea, tranquil to stormy, sometimes lonesome and melancholy, sometime gloriously powerful, and often within the same track. It is this dichotomy of shadow and light that gives LOA its unique sound. There are plenty of passages that are percussionless, but sooner or later a rhythm track emerges (but not always), and here is where there sometimes is a problem. It is most evident on 'Ghost Identifer' where the main rhythm programming sounds like an old 80's drum machine for a good portion of the track. Granted, that wasn't enough to sour me on such a magnificent work as this, but it did detract a bit.

All-in-all though, 'Hy-Brasil' is a gorgeously melodic excursion into the stratosphere that will keep your head in the clouds throughout the album's 1:11:05 time through 12 tracks, and thankfully, there are no remixes. I find myself wondering if Lights Out Asia perform live. If they do, I think they'd need a huge concert hall, arena or stadium to put across the expansiveness of their sound.


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