Music Reviews

Alex Durlak: Seconds

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 06 2012
Artist: Alex Durlak
Title: Seconds
Format: 12"
Label: Komino (@)
Rated: *****
On the "dark side" of this release on white vinyl, Canadian composer Alex Durlak decided to refer to the title of the last act of his tryptich (being the first two releases "Catalyst" on the Rural Routes series and "Lowing" on Audio Gourmet) by quoting a suggestive excerpt from the short ghost-story "A Haunted Island" by English novelist Algernon Henry Blackwood: "For the space of a hundred seconds there was silence, such as might have existed before the birth of sound.'. I'm not sure about the relation between this literary reference and Durlak's sound art, but I can conjecture it's not only related to the above-mentioned novel, whose absorbing descriptions - not so different from some masterpieces by Lovecraft, whose quality normally gets acknowledged by readers who are not lovers of that kind of prose writing - focus on aural perceptions, but also to Blackwood's poetics: even if that talented writer signed many horror stories, he belongs to that kind of storyteller whose aim doesn't seem to be frightening readers, but indeed arousing astonishment in them. Durlak's electric guitar-driven 20-minutes lasting track has similar properties: the piercing sonic curls seems to tangle on a low-frequency creepy tone, so that it seems they shape a sort of sonic corroded drone, which is going to chill and charm listeners as they're compelled to watch scary abstract shapes within darkness after a spinal anaesthesia. Even if Alex Durlak follows a quite simple compositional process ("Seconds" has been recorded in one improvised take through realtime processing of guitar, suing granular synthesis techniques), the final result really scores.

Radiomentale / Eric Pajot: I-Land

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Nov 03 2012
Artist: Radiomentale / Eric Pajot (@)
Title: I-Land
Format: CD
Label: F4T Music (@)
Rated: *****
Even if this French duo, made up of Jean-Yves Leloup (one of the most careful follower of the electronic music scene in his country as a journalist with two books, "Global Techno" and "Digital Magma", to his credit) and Eric Pajot (active visual artist, musician and dj), began to emit electronic radiations since 1992 mainly by means of radio broadcasts (they broadcasted a very notorious program on French Radio FG, the very first indipendent electronic music station in France, rerun on Swiss station Couleur 3 and Japanese Shibuya FM) for ten years and audiovisual installations as well as within the first rave parties in paris, where they organized many chill-out zones, this release on F4T Music can be considered their real debut album. RadioMentale cannot avoid a statement of belief and a declaration of love for the crossbreed between their art and cinema on I-Land for obvious reasons related to the constant focus on these complementary arts: they've been considered as pioneers of the so-called "cinemax", a very popular performative art in France and they've already rebuilt the soundtracks of many notorious cult movies such as Antonioni's "Blow Up", Cronenberg's "Videodrome" and De Palma's "Dressed To Kill". Moreover they've borrowed their sound forging experience to a numer of movie directors and the first of the three long tracks of "I-Land" just refers to their soundtrack for the dystopian (but not so different from the one we live in) world, portrayed by Jean-Baptiste Leonetti on his sci-fi full length movie "Carre' Blanc", whereas the somewhat maniacal, impersonal and highly regimented social organization, based on a series of rewards for people which supported the "system", lies on a set of scores of electronic manipulations and natural soundscapes for public areas and collective spaces in order to influence and erase people's conscience and thought: "Smooth Operator" sounds like the sonic translation of an hidden character of "Carre' Blanc"'s script in order to let the listener embody the chore of an operator on his/her workplace, which decides tunes according to a preprogrammed set of rules, changes tapes and meddles with strange machines in order to manipulate minds. This interesting concept has been followed by the highest hypnotical peak of the album, "Sinking", a recent live recording they performed on the occasion of a radiographic event dedicated to sound art: the subtle and obscure harmonics gradually slip into listener's mind by boosting the entrancing powers of the hollow voice of a sort of hypnotist, whose instructions and countdowns could persuade you in lapsing into a state of soft trance and slacken your mental activity. Radiomentale's psycho approach which looks like an hybrid between some sonic stuff by Pole and Laurent Perrier has been embellished by the this and final track by one half of the duo, Eric Pajot, who assembled an ensemble of vocal samples and glacial field recordings during a trip on Gotland Swedish island on the occasion of the shooting of Gregory Abou's "Are You There", where he seems to build a sort of sonic postcard of the snowy and desert landscapes of that place while surfing on the imaginative mindset of two legendary filmmakers, Andrei Tarkovski and Ingmar Bergman, whose artistic production and life were deeply rooted into that kind of scenery.

Fathom Audio: Promises/Ridges

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 31 2012
Artist: Fathom Audio (@)
Title: Promises/Ridges
Format: 12"
Label: Diffrent (@)
Rated: *****
An interesting attempt of renewing drum'n'bass language by a partial drawing from episodes of the genre which came before the roaring years of jump-up comes from Fathom Audio, a collective project by Billy aka Dj Billion, Matt Sensible aka Sense MC and Fybe-One. This lovely release on Diffrent, forerunner of the so-called giraffestep movement (!), sounds like a yin-yang, whose white dot on black side could be "Promises", a tune based on the intertwining of a very dirty dark bass and weedy occasional drum beats with an high-pitched melody, a dovetail which sounds not so different from unforgettable first tunes by Photek, whereas the black dot on white side could be evoked by "Ridges", a "brighter" track built on synth wooshes, a luminous computational melody, a muffled female vocal sample (turning into a pleased whimpering...) and an entrancing harp-like pulse. Fathom Audio built a sonic knick-knack which is going to mouthwater many dnb followers by wheeling dnb towards the boundaries with ambient-dub and folktronica.

Lawrence English: For/Not For John Cage

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Oct 31 2012
Artist: Lawrence English (@)
Title: For/Not For John Cage
Format: CD
Label: Line (@)
Rated: *****
If I had ignored the source of inspiration for this album was Cage's centenary, I would have surmised the appreciated Australian composer Lawrence English came under the spell of mycology or mushroom picking after reading the list of scientific names of various fungi or experienced some poisoning after eating them, even if I would have praised his work. The focus on fungi (most of you know John Cage was a mycologist, collector and consumer of mushrooms...) could be imaginatively explained by their distinctive features and particularly their nutrition, which lead to the distinction between saprophytes, symbiont or parasite, so that it seems that the mind behind Room40 collected a series of sonic organisms which sucked some lymph from the huge tree of knowledge, watered by John Cage, which fed them even with his dead leaves. This record is closely related to the soundtrack English revisited with Scott Morrison for Cage's One11, an abstract movie with no plot, completely based on a set of guidelines for takes and lighting, whose original OST, the orchestral work 103, echoes to many moments of this electronic abstract oevre as well as in the feeling of slow and sumptuous movement, a sort of quivering of ghastly and elusive entities. Notwithstanding the close connection between English's slow drones and some intuitions by Cage, the nine tracks on "For/Not For John Cage" evoke trance-like states between sleeping and waking while discolsing very catchy compositional processes by oscillating between the daydreaming soothing of "Otidea Onotica", the laudanum-like amniotic flotation of "Hygrophorus russula", the somewhat disquieting apnea of "Naematoloma sublateritium" and the ancestral mists of "Entoloma abortivum".

PAS: Flanked By Women And Pumpkins

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Oct 28 2012
Artist: PAS (@)
Title: Flanked By Women And Pumpkins
Format: CD
Label: Alrealon Musique (@)
Distributor: Plastic Head
Rated: *****
From subterranean corridors to ghostly '50s living rooms, NY 5-piece (and guests) PAS take you for an odd, auditory journey. Described by spokesperson Robert L. Pepper as "more soundscapes than "songs" in the traditional sense," there is still a dystopian sci-fi vibe that makes for a coherent listen.

Employing a battery of traditional band instruments - guitar, bass, drums, keys, trumpets, and percussion - PAS then illuminates these grooves with sonic bric-a-brac - found sounds, field recordings, and countless synthesizers. PAS flirt with atonal jazz, sound collage, doom metal, and '80s horror movie music during its sixty-minute duration. What could have been a stylistic clusterfuck ends up instead as an engaging auditory hallucination; a streak through the collective HORRORSHOW id of its creators. Don't get me wrong, this record is not cloaked in shadows and soaked in gore. If anything, its more polished chrome and burning red neon than cobwebs and candles.

The band claims that 'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins,' conceived during a tour of Poland in 2011, is "uncommercial". "There are no clearly defined melodies, no structural landmarks that give you any sense of traditional anchor," says Robert L. Pepper. The thing they may not realize is that many of us have spent the last 10 years blowing the dust out of our Eustachian canals with krautrock, harsh noise, drones, and field recordings. I have found, after repeated investigations, that 'FBWAP' falls nicely in line with the current Zeitgeist. Anybody that gets off on the endless grooves of classic cosmische jams, retro-futuristic techno, or John Carpenter-esque synthesizer scores, will find much meat on this bone.

I was all primed to hate this record, initially turned off by the glossy cardboard packaging, but the initial warm bass pulse of 'Electric Rain On Adams Bridge' seduced me. It comes off like a techno record, before degenerating into noisy crackling, then sluicing through some disembodied jazz. Its not as incoherent as it sounds; there is a universal pulse to this record. Its got a groove. It worked its way into my kitchen CD player for a week, before moving onto my headphones, making my trips to the bank and the shoestore far more futuristic and abstract.

'Flanked By Women And Pumpkins' was produced and mastered by Robert L. Pepper, dispelling the myth that a musician can't mix and master their own work. He has a deft touch; the recordings are full and well-rounded, and help to distinguish this record from the legions of bland noise imitators. Every sonic element is glowingly rendered in spacious reverb; all the pieces work as a whole. There are no jarring changes in volume, surprising considering the varied genres and instrumentation. The spell is never broken, and the listener is treated to 12 surreal, walking dreamscapes.

Purveyors of art-house classicism and bored-room jazz, take note. There may be clues here as to how 'high-brow' 20th-century Avant-Garde techniques can come together with current DIY-sweaty basement experimentation.

Uncommercial, my left ear. Go buy this.

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