Music Reviews



The Synthetic Dream Foundation: Mechanical Serpent

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 24 2010
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Artist: The Synthetic Dream Foundation (@)
Title: Mechanical Serpent
Format: CD
Label: Mythical Records (@)
Distributor: Mythical Records
Rated: *****
A long while back, I reviewed Synthetic Dream Foundation's 'Tendrils of Pretty' 2006 CD release, and although I found TSDF to have some promise, there were so many things wrong with that release that I just couldn't rate it very highly. Well I must say that 'Mechanical Serpents' is such a drastic improvement that it's mind-blowing! There is still the TSDF Delerium-like flavor, but the quality of composition is absolutely superior. There is quite a similarity to Frontline Assembly and Delerium, but where Bill Leeb chooses to keep those entities separate, TSDF's Brett Branning fuses the industrial FLA elements with the more ethereal vocal and orchestral aspects of Delerium. The combination is dynamic, and 'Mechanical Serpents' will take you back to the halcyon days of Delerium circa 'Semantic Spaces' and 'Karma,' with less emphasis on World Music stylistics.

Although Branning is the backbone of TSDF (has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?), what skyrockets this effort is the female vocals he incorporates. All four vocalists ' Marcela Bovio, Summer Bowman, Susan Siren and Tamara Kent are a bit different, yet all work so well for the feel, pace and mood of the different tracks they sing on that it's absolute magic. A bit of genius on Brett's part too, matching the right vocal with the right musical piece.

The album begins with an aura of sweetness and innocence with vocals by Marcela on 'Glittering ripples from the depths,' with a multi-layer harmony on the chorus, like the prologue of some epic fantasy film, but soon enough TSDF is 'Invoking the Beast,' as any good fantasy trip needs its monsters. It's a relatively brief transitional instrumental track but a really amazing one with complex orchestration that keeps building. TSDF picks up the pace with 'Auf dem see,' with stellar vocals by Summer Bowman. That's followed by another instrumental track that is cinematic is scope titled 'On whom the dreadful claw'. You can just picture the cauldron of malevolence being stirred by foul denizens of the underworld. Perhaps the most striking vocal track on the album is by Susan Siren on 'The spectre's masquerade'. Siren's glorious operatic angelic voice is somewhat reminiscent of Maureen O'Flynn. It's a superb melding of classical and modern. 'The one eyed maiden' is another dramatic instrumental track with excellent complex multilayered orchestration over an industrial rhythm. It could have gone on for twice as long as it did and I would still have been happy. 'Puzzlebox' is sung by Tamara Kent, whose wispy voice ranges from a whisper to a lilting fairie fluttering through the etheric ambience. 'Ascent to heaven's eye' has a killer dance beat, and would make a great transitional track for any DJ to incorporate in a dance club set. It has a cool, orchestral denouement too. Last track, 'A silvered freeze' is no less driven (perhaps even moreso) with fitting industrial-style vocals from Mr.Branning. This track, with its driving intensity might be better suited to the Goth-Industrial dancefloor. A little over 44 minutes with this album, and you find yourself just wanting to play it again. That doesn't happen very often.

What I really like about 'Mechanical Serpents' is that it is accessible without being commercial or mainstream. I've heard other projects that have done music along these lines, and for me, there was always something that didn't gel properly; either tracks didn't go anywhere, something stuck out like a sore thumb, it ended up sounding too New Agey, or clichéd Electro-World Music. It's real easy to succumb to the bland with this type of music, but TSDF never give you a dull, sappy moment of that. I doubt you will find 'Mechanical Serpents' becoming a staple CD in aromatherapy salons and New Age massage parlors.

Something further should be mentioned ' Brett Branning also designed the cover of the CD (and others; you should really visit The Synthetic Dream Foundation website) showing that he also has a talent for visual fantasia. This is one of those albums that I would certainly buy if I heard a track or two from it. Lucky me, I already have it, so I don't have to, but YOU DO. Definitely a contender for Best Album of the Year for 2010.

Shrine: Distorted Legends, Pt.1

 Posted by John Gore   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 17 2010
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Artist: Shrine (@)
Title: Distorted Legends, Pt.1
Format: 7"
Label: Drone Records (@)
Rated: *****
Very nice dark ambient with a dose of symphonic for good measure. A deep sense of longing and isolation. Like looking into the face of a snow storm, lost and confused. Good stuff!

xabec: feuerstern

 Posted by John Gore   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 17 2010
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Artist: xabec (@)
Title: feuerstern
Format: 7"
Label: Drone Records (@)
Rated: *****
A disk of two different uses, one a studio track, and the other the same track used in a live performance setting with additional materials added. Xabec is Manuel G. Richter. The additional live treatments comes from Michael Northam. The original track is one of calm droning with various overtones added and subtracted as the piece continues. There is a sense of foreboding at times but also the promise of the inevitable dawn. I'm not sure that the treated side added much to the studio track. It may have been a lot more enjoyable if I had been there when it all happened. Comes in a very cool box.

Moljebka Pvlse: lodelvx

 Posted by John Gore   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 17 2010
Artist: Moljebka Pvlse (@)
Title: lodelvx
Format: 7"
Label: Drone Records (@)
Rated: *****
A 7" on Drone Records released in 2008 presenting us with a slow, swirling miasma of sound. What you might hear at the appearing of a friendly appartition. Cold but not burning cold. Go towards the light! Good stuff that I'd like to hear on a longer track.

The [Law-Rah] Collective: Solitaire

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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May 12 2010
cover
Artist: The [Law-Rah] Collective (@)
Title: Solitaire
Format: CD
Label: Raubbau (@)
Distributor: Ant-Zen
Rated: *****
Active since the beginning of the century, the musical pineal gland by the duo made up of Martijn Pieck and Bauke Van Der Wal aka the [law-rah] collective - two of different Dutch twisted minds of the collective founded by Bauke - keeps on secreting superb distillates of emotional dark-ambient, giving a concise sonic account of somewhat borderline feelings. Solitaire is their 7th full release and for this occasion, it seems they squeezed the nostalgic and most abstract aspect of memory as they create a mosaic of translations of mental snapshots and hidden emotions into sonic as well as visual fragments referring to the solipsistic mental process deriving from the “rendering” of memories from the past, superbly interpreted even by Salt’s photographic lens for an evocative plumbeous artwork with the abandoned remains of a rural little house standing out on a leaden sky.

This cinematic journey starts with the atmospheric From Inside An Empty Room, in which a constant quivering tune and an uplifting some shamanic whispering slightly disturbed by the typical crackling caused by wind on mic membrane will elevate your soul through the wider spaces evocated by the [Law-Rah] collective’s sound sculptures. Just to set the mood, the filthy resonance on percussion and a protracted low frequency pitpat on gradually resurfacing creepy tonals on the synesthetical string crescendo of Lavender Scent, setting the mood for the sumptuous breathtaking symphony of When Blue Turns Grey. If you consider the general mood of the album, you could imagine this track as an attempt of giving a musical shape to unspoken desire gradually sliding into more restless sonorities, translating into music the understanding of ineluctability, a theme which seems superbly afforded in the following track, Silent Voices, starting with a slow waltz of piano, interrupted by an obsessive choir of obscure voices, following some bass tones and suffocating the initial sign of melody before it comes back again on the stage even if in scantier melodic phrases like a day-dream whose perfection has been raped by the somewhat frightening tunneling of reality. The dramatic peak of this recording is touched by Away From Home, the most worried track of Solitaire, whose conclusion with some grave piano strokes will bring listeners to “reality” through lulling oscillations. Being imbued with the right emotional set and setting, Solitaire is a record which is going to break the heart of all those who love this kind of musical experiences.


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