Music Reviews

Jaap Vink: S/T

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 21 2017
Artist: Jaap Vink
Title: S/T
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Recollection GRM
Rated: *****
With the release of a double LP by Jaap Vink, the Recollection GRM series coordinated by Daniel Teruggi and François Bonnet, moves from the focus of releasing music strictly produced by the GRM group but extend it featuring composers who are not strictly affiliated with them, but whose approach and aesthetics are similar. Compiled with the help of the Sonology Institute in The Hague, this collection contains seven tracks recorded from 1968 to 1985. Born in 1930, Jaap Vink He attended courses in electroacoustics at Delft University of Technology and installed a pedagogical studio for electronic music in 1961 at the Gaudeamus Foundation in Bilthoven with the help of the Nederlandse Radio Unie (NRU). He was a staff member at the Institute of Sonology as a teacher in analogue studio techniques from 1967 until his retirement in 1993. Using oscillators, tapes, filters and modulators he was able to build up a sound that was rich and majestic. The opening track "En Dehors" is a magmatic drone made of many small frequencies and the effect created is just beautiful. "Objets Distants" has been recorded in 1970 but it sounds ahead of its time. It's sounding like travel through the space with hissing sounds, small feedbacks: a chaotic but yet controlled track that after seven minutes or raging sounds, turns quiet and minimal, playing with frequencies and feedbacks. "Stroma" is sounding like a strings orchestra which is on an astral voyage, where everything seems so distant and slow. The change of intensity and the multi layering is the key and Jaap Vink is a master in the process. "Granule" and "Residuals" pass from strong noisy parts to minimal ones and like the following "Screen" and "Tide 85" they play around the construction of multi tonal parts. I was amazed listening to this material and it recalls me also the same approach that nowadays artists like Boyd Rice on his "Children Of the Black Sun" had toward the construction of sound. Nice!

Robert Crouch: Sublunar

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 19 2017
Artist: Robert Crouch
Title: Sublunar
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch Tone
“Sublunar” has its origins in a collaborative live performance mixing sound, technology and movement, but the original sonic material has been reworked and repurposed into something which is ultimately much more static. The result is a collection of drones, found hums and atmospheres that almost extol the virtues of non-movement.

Opening track “Descension” is warm, with a reassuringly cosy hum. The breathing patterns continue into second track “Brick By Brick” but the tone becomes coldier, emptier, more windswept.

The misleadingly titled “Listen to the sound of the earth turning” is even more lightweight, a repeated single robotic note triggering in an evolving rhythm, an exercise in how a sound might be alarming and soporific at the same time. Halfway through, the repeating note fades and warmer hum-chords similar to the opening track return. To complete the arrangement, “Coda (Sailing Stones)” blows cold again, with sporadic noises like water droplets falling in an underground cave, and the slow arrival of a faintly synth-organ-like melodic loop as a crescendo of sorts.

Despite its complex and multidisciplinary origins, “Sublunar” as an audio product is stark and simple. It’s so mellow that it could easily find itself on a sleep playlist, and might serve well as an environmental setting, but it lacks distinctive features or ideas that would make it shine in its own right.

Deciduous Flux: Jupiter

 Posted by Ibrahim Khider (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 10 2017
Artist: Deciduous Flux (@)
Title: Jupiter
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released

Colorado-based Deciduous Flux’s Jupiter is a theater-of-the-mind of sci-fi narratives from the netherworld of power electronics and early Industrial a la early Throbbing Gristle and Nocturnal Emissions. The planet Jupiter is the unifying theme of this album where each track excerpts major or B-movie films that mention, through dialogue, the largest planet in our solar system. One fun game is trying to guess which sci-fi movie or documentary is excerpted from each song. The only film excerpt I recognized was from 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Stylistically, this album is a refreshing listen. While Jupiter is electronic, it does not fit in any genre like ambient, dubstep or techno. There are drum machines, synths, chip tunes accents, acoustic instruments, and effects—especially on the film excerpts which are put through a lot of reverb and echo. Other close musical touchstones to this album is the work of Bryn Jones as E.g. Oblique Graph, before he became Muslimgauze, for its use of austere drum machines and reverb drenched instrumentals in tandem with treated audio samples. The major departure point between Deciduous Flux and other mentioned musical projects is Jupiter seems to embrace optimism and wonder, with a touch of humor. It took several listens for this reviewer to wrap his mind around the music because there are no conventional melodies here, rather narrative or soundtrack music to imaginary radio plays. The only exception is “Jupiter 8”, which is a quirky ode to hip hop meets illbient meets chip tunes meets sci-fi B-movie. As for the rest of the album, part of their netherworld quality can be attributed to Deciduous Flux’s creative process which they call ‘Automatic Recording’. Deciduous Flux member, Wesley Young explains, “(Our music) is similar to automatic drawing. Where you leave yourself open to your subconscious. Becoming more of an invocation or an evocation. Instead of having a detailed plan, one comes up with sounds on the fly at that moment and hit record. None of our music has been structured vocal samples. All of our tracks are raw instant creations with no rehearsals. You get lost in the process and there for it becomes more direct from the heart...As people grow and change, so many things will effect and possibly change those creations or the creating process. I believe automatic recording avoids this phase for the most part. When we are recording and we slip away, we become a single composition of sound and I believe there is a lot of channeling involved.” Deciduous Flux is music to get happily lost to and then eventually led to musical realms you would not discover otherwise.

The Star Pillow: Invisible Summer

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 08 2017
Artist: The Star Pillow
Title: Invisible Summer
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Midira Records
“Invisible Summer” comprises four remarkably simple pieces of ambient drone, blended from electronics and guitar sounds that have been so processed that their DNA is almost wholly electronic too. Recorded live in sun-washed Northern Italy during the Summer of 2016, it’s extremely beautiful in its languid simplicity. Gentle melodic note patterns ebb slightly into our consciousness, and it delicately balances mellow with melancholy.

Second track “While You’re Sleeping In July” in particular has, as the title suggests, a wave-like soporific quality to it that makes it absolutely ideal for meditative thought, or just happily nodding off. Third track “Under The Ice Of August” is again aptly named, with a cooler, slightly windier and more fragile glass tone, before “The End Is The Beginning” yet again takes a literal title as it at first returns to the original form of the opening track, before developing into a more guitar-heavy grand shoegaze finale that is very slightly at odds with the structure of the rest of the album.

Stunningly simple but very effective, “Invisible Summer” won’t win any awards for innovation but this is a luxurious sound bath that I’d very highly recommend.

Between Interval: Legacy

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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May 07 2017
Artist: Between Interval (@)
Title: Legacy
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Sweden's Between Interval, the project name of electronic music composer Stefan Strand has been working in electronic music since 1996 and has five albums going back to 2004, four of the on the Spotted Peccary label. His last release was all the way back in 2009 ('The Edge of a Fairy Tale'), so Between Interval fans have had a long wait for 'Legacy.' I haven'[t heard any of Between Interval's prior efforts, but the promo sheet says that he's influenced by Jean Michel Jarre, Robert Rich, Aphex Twin and Pink Floyd, so there is a certain expectation, for me at least. While the album's concept is not nearly as exacting as S. K. Johansen's 'Secret Space Program,' it certainly is a spacier affair. This artist seems to prefer a more impressionistic approach, which is fine in music like this. Once you get too definite, there are certain expectations that are disappointing when not met, and tend to dichotomize the artist's concept from the listener's experience. None of that here. This is space music, pure and simple. Damn fine space music too. Between Interval never gets too specific with melody, and lets the sublimity of the atmosphere carry you away. Right from the opening track ("Tunnel") the music seems other-worldly. There is motion well-integrated with the cosmic ambience, with a purposeful sequenced percussion track that gently propels the listener onward. The journey continues in the nearly hypnotic "On Track" with just enough simple thematic content that doesn't overwhelm. (This makes for wonderful driving music, by the way.) Maybe your energy is waning. Maybe you need an "Accelerant" to give you a boost. It takes a little time to come on, but when it does, it recalls the impetus of Tangerine Dream and Michael Hoenig sequencers. Plenty of nature field recordings herald in "The Hour Appointed," but also with bellish tones and an ominous dark and low ambient pad that adds contrast to what otherwise might have been a sunny day. The technoir of "Septimal Laws" makes for pure space ambient delight, and the cosmic awesomeness of "Fields of Neptune" holds its own with the best of 70's electronic space music. Old school at its finest. By the time you get to "The Outer Shell," you're in floating deep space and time seems to have little meaning anymore. However, every flight must eventually return to terra and the trancey return with "Gravity Core" makes for a smooth landing. "Inner Guidance" is perhaps the most enigmatic track on 'Legacy,' with electronically manipulated voices, methodically placed bass accents, and a Blade Runneresque ambience. While "Closing In" isn't much more than a minute of noise sweeps, it's an effective way to end the trip. What I really like about Between Interval's compositions is that they never go overboard with sounds (nearly minimalistic at times) and allow the music a lot of breathing space, yet still sound huge. In electro-ambient space music, that's a big plus. Also available in limited edition vinyl.

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