Music Reviews

Neon Rain: Of The Dead

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Dec 02 2012
Artist: Neon Rain (@)
Title: Of The Dead
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Steelwork Maschine (@)
Rated: *****
French Industrial/Noise/Experimental project Neon Rain is Serge Usson (who also co-founded the Industrial/Post-Industrial Steelwork Maschine label with Kris G., aka Christophe Gales of Westwind) and David Delwiche (on this album) of Hyperbarich Yperite Therapy Chamber and The Groovie Goolies (both Industrial Noise projects, I think). Usson has also been involved with a number of other groups ' Acarus Scopt, Ligne Claire, Fin De Siècle, Storm of Capricorn (his neoclassical martial folk project), and likely others I am unaware of. Neon Rain came into being in 1998 with the release of a self-produced tape of Serge's recordings from 1992-1997, and has released a few CDs under the Neon Rain moniker since then, perhaps the most recent work prior to this triple-album being the double-disc 'We Are Meat/The Vultures' in 2008. 'Of The Dead' is a triple-disc set, a most ambitious undertaking dedicated to George A. Romero's first zombie movie trilogy ' 'Night Of The Living Dead,' 'Dawn Of The Dead,' and 'Day Of The Dead'. Consequently the discs are titled 'A Night,' 'A Dawn,' and 'A Day.'

I have to say that when I opened the CD package, I wasn't quite prepared for THREE CDs to review. (I don't usually bother with the one-sheet that would have clued me in to it being a triple disc until I'm ready to do the review.) So obviously this is a lot to take in. My impressions of the first disc, 'A Night' is of noisy old-school electronics intersperesed with movie dialogue samples (from NOTLD, I presume)>Lots of oscillators going wild, some spooky themes. Actually, the disc opens up with perhaps uncharacteristic stately piano chords but descends into weird world midway through the piece. By the end of the first track it turns industrial. I'm not even going to attempt to say how well it all relates to Romero's movie; been a long time since I've seen it and no real desire to watch it again for this review. Never saw the other two movies, so I can only relate how the CDs sound as electronic-industrial noise. Impression of the first disc was 'pretty interesting and atmospheric in places'.

'A Dawn' begins with movie dialogue samples morphing into droning background and noise, then higher pitched drone and various shades of gray background noises, settling into a morose sort of ambience. For the most part it is more placid than the first disc, although a bit weirder in a way. Thing's get quite strange on track 5, 'Entertain! Now!' which begins with something like a marching band sample and morphs into gothic calliope music. The rest of the disc is industrial noise electronics atmospherics, with the noisiest passages being on the final track. I suppose you gotta love the cliché movie music ending though.

'A Day' may be the most (conventionally) musical of the three, presenting a number of brief electronic compositions with rhythm tracks, interspersed with movie dialogue samples backed by a modulated drone. It doesn't get very experimental until track 7 ('Dr Logan & Major Cooper'), but that's not for long. Some of these ditties remind me of the kind of minimal synth & drum machine experiments I was doing in the 80's before I discovered really dark music. They're okay in a very retro kind of way but seem out of place for zombie movie music. Things get dark and noisy again for a while on track 11 ('Here They Come') but the old-school synth & drum machine creeps back in and it's an atmosphere killer. (Reminded me a bit of SA42 without the vocals.) Overall, this was the least appealing of the 3 discs, but some might like it because it's the most accessible.

While not a landmark achievement, 'Of The Dead' has its moments, with a few really creepy bits, and moments to satisfy electronic noise junkies, and maybe even fans of Romero's zombie flicks. (There's plenty of movie dialogue passages.) The album sounds like it was recorded a long time ago though, even if it wasn't. Maybe if it was, it would be a retro classic. For those who can't get enough, there is also another disc (which I didn't get) titled 'More Of The Dead' dealing with Romero's second zombie trilogy. It's supposed to be quite different, more in a lo-fi noise-folk style.

Sabled Sun: 2145

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 29 2012
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Artist: Sabled Sun (@)
Title: 2145
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Cryo Chamber
Rated: *****
Cryo Chamber release this new album from Simon Heath just a few months from his return as Atrium Carceri. This new alias deals with terriories close to the ones covered by Atrium Carceri with perhaps even better production but less inspiration.
"Intro" opens this release with a cinematic soundscape when "this is where the world ends" develops in the usual dark ambient territories with an impressive cure for details. "Abandoned" is instead based of a synth line and sparse noises. "Retina" use a catchy beat as the infrastructure of the various samples used. "Singularity" is a noisier track that acts as a bridge to "the hideout" that return to the soundscapes for which the author is well known. "Signals" marks the movement into almost minimal territories while "silo" is an exercise of samples organization. "Date expired", as "shattered", is reminiscent of some sci-fi sound tracks while "the facility", as "the ancient", is a sort of minimal without beats. "A new sun" use some voices to expand the colors of the sound palette. "Acid Rain" is a quiet interlude to "Transmission/outro" that ends this release with a form of unresolved tension.
This album is as of average quality in songwriting as is absolutely well produced. Only for fans.
Artist: Synoiz (@)
Title: Darkling
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Named after the most rhythmical track of his debut album "Ambients", who grabbed the attention of many listeners and reviewers dealing with darkest declensions of ambient, electro-pop and synth-pop, "Darkling" is a voluptuous collection of remixes by various (mostly unknown) musicians Sunderland-based sound artist Graeme Donaldson met. Remix albums are not my favorite ones as sometimes the original version usually biases the final result of remixer's manipulations, but there are many exception when this circumstance doesn't occur: "Darkling" can be considered an exception as well due to the impressive variety of styles which have been injected by remixers, who mostly doesn't skew the atmosphere of the original track. The fact it offers the possibility to knew some obscure producers and sound artists is another relevant feature of this release and I've to say there are many interesting interpretations. As it's a digital release which gives the possibility to the listeners to buy single track, if I had to pick a limited number of them to suggest, any choice would be somewhat inequitable. The decision of including the album version gives the possibility to appreciate better what I highlighted before: the remixes which are closer to the original version are maybe the ones which sounds more focused on the dark and ethereal vein, which pulsates in the original version. I particularly enjoyed "Doug Lynner's Los Gatos Mix" and "Ravenslament Wake Up #13 Mix" - both of them reminded to me that kind of dark ambient-dub (one of the first names which come to my mind is G.O.L.) for the tastes of Dead Can Dance, which had some rushes in the middle 90ies -, the abstract suppurations of "SKatterBrain Remix" - it could evoke some stuff by Sabres Of Paradise - and the amazing electronic procession of "Pinklogik Remix", but all those versions who squeezed the track to highlight the rhythmical aspect are equally interesting, particularly "Synoizian Dance Edit" - a well balanced mixture of electro and acid techno -, "Endo Meso Pick N Mix" - an atmospheric coalescence of charming trip-hop and obscure downbeat -. Some surprises come from remxies of other songs as well: "Arrow Down Hill Defiance Remix" of "Ever Emptiness" could let you imagine an unexpected appearance by Radiohead or Stateless in some hidden episode of Resident Evil or 3D Realms/Monolith Production' "Blood", whose horror settings could be evoked in a more concrete way by the scary atmospheres on "Ark Elfs Brain Haemorrhage mix" of "The Enfield Poltergeist" or the tormented Beefcake-like breakbeat on "Scriptkiddy's Wrong St Ives Mix" of "The Esoteric Order Of Dagon", while gamelan-driven "Lunar Re:Mix" of "From You" by Anguajy could let you imagine some Balinese lunar modul! You can find a certain relief in the amazing reinterpretation of "Of Rolling Hills" by Madeleine Bloom, whom critics are calling Germany's answer to Imogen Heap..its listening could immerse listener into an imaginary nursery room for Casper and other sweetie baby ghosts!

Bee Mask: When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Synth Pop / Electro Pop / Synth-Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 27 2012
Artist: Bee Mask (@)
Title: When We Were Eating Unripe Pears
Format: 12"
Label: Spectrum Spools/Mego (@)
Rated: *****
It's quite immediate to notice a sort of idyllic tension as well as a certain taste for computational melodic chains while listening this collection of tracks, nicely titled "When We Were Eating Unripe Pears", by Bee Mask (nice artistic identity by skilled electronic composer Chris Madak) for Spectrum Spools series, recorded between Cleveland and Philadelphia over a time span of five years and mastered by Rashad Becker at Dubplates and Mastering. The constant appetite of food for imagination of many electronic music's listeners gets whetted enough: you could imagine the seed for the luxuriant sonic garden by Mr Madak lies crystallized within ice crystals and stalactites evoked by the initial track "Frozen Falls" before its eventful journey over waterways and subterranean cave while its defrosting continues on the second track "Moon Shadow Move", whose bubbling themes placidly flows into the flickering pads and the airy coils of the following "The Story of Keys and Locks", whose entrancing levitations till the final metallic jingles ideally closes this first imaginative splash and the first side of this release, whose first 300 copies come on translucent green vinyl. The B side, which has been considered by Bee Mask as the proper sequel to his previous "Canzoni del Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico", opens with an equally psychoactive track, "Pink Drinq": after a sort of tuning phase, the track blasts off with an impressive crescendo which sounds like flooding in beyond tympanic membranes, so that it seems they clears the ground for the amazing pinball of sound objects, which appears in the sonic space over a sort of regular heartbeat on "Fried Niteshades", and the upward motions and synth breezes on "Unripe Pears" and, to cap it all, on the daydreaming final track "Rain In Coffee".

Simon Balestrazzi: La Montana Sagrada

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Nov 24 2012
Artist: Simon Balestrazzi (@)
Title: La Montana Sagrada
Format: CD
Label: SantoS Productions (@)
Rated: *****
The crowning achievement of an astonishingly fertile year for the Italian sound-artist and former member of historical band T.A.C. Simon Balestrazzi comes as a dearly dedication to the most known mind behind Panic Movement, the Chilean-French film-maker, author and spiritual guru Alejandro Jodorowsky and particularly to his masterpiece The Holy Mountain, a surrealist "mystery play" about western esoteric background, which cannot be but perceived as a mystical and religious taunt by cultural guardians of the temples of official religions and ideologies. Without going into detail of "The Holy Mountain", who succeeded in shaking flattest cultural grounds, thanks to its good workmanship, which can be explained by the remarkable financial efforts it attracted (it seems it was financed by John Lennon who provided Jodo with one million dollars, even the final result wasn't widely distributed due to some disagreements with Allen Klein) as well, I think it's relevant the intellectual curiosity about the fact this release was initially close to find favor with Jodorowsky itself. According to Balestrazzi's words, his friend Alex Papa, owner of a small alternative bookshop in Bologna, had the possibility to meet Jodorowski with the purpose of submitting the attempt of rescoring The Holy Mountain by T.A.C. (under his own supervision) to him. Such an arduous collaboration, whose boldness is almost obvious if you consider it should compete with ritual music, composed by Jodorowski himself, and contributuons by Roland Frangipane and Don Cherry, was sinking into oblivion, due to some impediments, when Simon decided to take the project out of his drawer in order to get it into print through the small Italian label SantoS Productions. Thank goodness! Simon manages to evoke and stick to the mind-blowing visionary atmospheres of that movie as well as by some sonic hints to the original OST by an hallucinotary crescendo from the obscure starting track, "Opening Ritual" (you can try listeneing to it while watching that notorious sequence, which features his director playing the character of The Alchemist), to the final punching drones and the disquieting sonic setting of "Leopards Milk" by going through the oppressing sound on "Axon", the foreboding one on "Its Perfume Is My Blood", the occult alchemic soup of "In The Rainbow Room".

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