Music Reviews



Jonas Kesper Jensen: Layers Of Bridges

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 12 2017
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Artist: Jonas Kesper Jensen
Title: Layers Of Bridges
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
“Layers Of Bridges” is a set of barren computer-generated sonic landscapes. It’s a relatively established arrangement of digital hums and unnaturally long reverbs, counter-playing tones and wave synthesis. While the track names have an architectural theme, sonically this is open, near-empty space.

Each of the seven tracks is exactly 5:30, and most fade in and out, as though each environment is infinite but 330 seconds is the permitted visiting time. Each environment is relatively static- there’s a faint degree of evolution within pieces like “Thru Arch” but for the most part it’s eventless.

“Stay Girder” opens with a repeating piano note that suggests the arrival of new structure, but the reverb and layering soon degenerates the note into a sonic bath that fits the rest of the pieces; imagine “I Am Sitting In A Room” based on a single piano note rather than the spoken word.

The exception to this format is the fifth track “Culvert”, which is a discordant and unsettling loop of electronics with a tense throbbing bass tone. Were it not for this track, and perhaps the distant drilling sound of “Channel Beam”, this release would be going on my ‘music to sleep to’ playlists, but this track is an anachronistic wake-up call.

As a complete work it does fall a little short of distinctive flavour or character but as a surprisingly soporific collection of rigidly prescribed hum soundscapes, it mostly works very well.

Philippe Lauzier: A Pond In My Living Room

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 07 2017
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Artist: Philippe Lauzier
Title: A Pond In My Living Room
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sofa
“A Pond In My Living Room” is constructed predominantly from multitracked bass clarinet recordings, layered and processed into steady beatless hypnotic ambiences. Sparing use of other noises- which may in fact be clarinet-sourced but are so processed it’s hard to tell- add a little sprinkle over what is otherwise a very pure and sincere expression of resonance.

I’m a sucker for a lovely clarinet, and while the sustains and thick reverberations here pull the tones far away from the traditional instrument’s sound, that rich timbre is still present. The hollowness of the production is a little alienating, and the resonant frequency responses are a touch metallic, making the overall feel of the album surprisingly inorganic.

The differences between the tracks are subtle and well segued. The first two track have distinct and different pitches of tone that sound not unlike tubular bells. Third track “On The Window Side” has a higher, more flute-like quality and adds a steady slow plucked light bass note, and occasional sounds like processed and distorted tap noises which increase the sense of homemade domestication compared to the other pieces. The final track has a more ebbing and fragile tone, almost like pitched wineglass playing.

Twisting bass clarinet sounds into melodious drones and super-slow looped chord patterns may not be an innovative concept in itself, but the straightforward approach and pure quality of this release make it a big success.

Miguel Angel Tolosa: Ephimeral

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 07 2017
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Artist: Miguel Angel Tolosa
Title: Ephimeral
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sofa
Miguel Angel Tolosa has contributed to and mastered several releases on the SOFA label but this is his first solo outing- a tight, moderated collection of drones, washes and passive sound, fusing and filtering electronics with sound sources detached unrecognisably from their origins. It’s mostly windy and hollow, but sometimes sub-bass. Instrumentation and process both become irrelevant.

The result is for the most part rather familiar- the echo chamber effect of distant deep oscillations, the sense of being trapped in a large bleak room with a busy city outside, this is certainly territory that has been audibly walked through before. Everything here is washes and reverb, there’s no percussive element at all- just curves and rumbles with a fairly purist sensibility. Rain and thunder on “Sol de plomo y purpura” and a couple of bell chimes on “De un pais de hierro” are exceptions that don’t jolt you.

Tonally it’s not quite as barren as the artwork may suggest. The purity of some of the metallic tones is borderline optimistic at times.

Many of the pieces are surprisingly short (10 tracks span 41 minutes) which prevents almost any of the tracks from elongating into a mesmeric familiarity; just as you’re beginning to accustom yourself to the atmospheric tone, it stops- sometimes a little abruptly- and a new tone begins to creep in. I do wonder whether some of the pieces should have been segued into one another for a more immersive listening experience, or whether some of the pieces should simply have been longer. When the tracks are allowed to live for longer- on “Sol de plomo y purpura” and “Fragmentos de ti”- it works well.

It’s a bold and rather too brief musical statement as an album, not too steeply infused with any kind of unique sonic identity but certainly both pretty and polished.

Aidan Casserly & Friends: Spoken

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Electronics / EBM / Electronica
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 04 2017
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Artist: Aidan Casserly & Friends
Title: Spoken
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
The new album by Aidan Casserly, who among the other hundred of things he does reformed his first band Empire State Human, is a particular and touchy one. "Spoken" has been released as Aidan Casserly & Friends as the fifteen tracks are spoken word performances with background music played by Aidan. For a little bit more than half hour this album will capture your attention totally. Each track has a different guest that give his voice and his interpretation to the lyrics reading them with transport and passion. Most of the tracks are piano driven ones but we have also some with a "creepy" atmosphere like the opening "Amaze Me" (with ambient synth lines), "Incubus II" (it sounds like an horror soundtrack with kettledrums, piano, synth lines and it's read by Attrition's Martin Bowes) or "We Are The Light" (this is probably the most experimental of the lot, thanks to a minimal approach to guitar distorted sounds and filtered vocals). You can check the whole album at the House Of Analogue soundcloud page at https://soundcloud.com/houseofanalogue, it's worth it!

Ran Slavin: Digital Junkies In Strange Times

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Apr 04 2017
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Artist: Ran Slavin
Title: Digital Junkies In Strange Times
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica (@)
Delving deep into the laptop, “Digital Junkies In Strange Times” is a genre-ignoring collection of electronic ambiences that draws ethereal samples shamelessly from any source that appeals. Most prominently this is R&B acapellas (some re-recorded presumably for legal reasons), processed to drift in out of our consciousness like a distant radio broadcast, but other found sounds are thrown in too. Under this, the core of this album is a gentle electronic soundscape which is soft yet glitchy.

“Turbulent Sphere”, at 13 minutes, is a relatively steady piece with a digital heartbeat. Processed bell sounds and warm chords ebb above. The beginning and end of the piece are weirder than the middle; twisted attempts at key changes towards the end sound playful or positively tongue-in-cheek at parts.

At only a minute and a half long, “Acousmatis” is a wonky processed acoustic guitar loop that seems to be present for two reasons, firstly because it’s a little silly, secondly to increase the track count. The other short track “Teen Haze” is more worthwhile, an almost radio-edit-y bit of anti-pop instrumental with deep flangey bass notes and a lightweight, crisp laptop-hip-hop beat, degenerating into metallic creaks as it develops.

The main meal of the release is the 41-minute “Moonlight Compilations”, which walks a fine line between being a single electronic work and a mix album. There are some steady tempos and recurring elements throughout. Sometimes there’s several layers in play, sometimes there’s a pure single element standing alone. At points it drops to nothing more than distant birdsong, reminiscent of The KLF’s “Chill Out”, with which it shares a sense of live, improvised fader-riding. At other points, it’s a heavier electronic throb, with a womb-like ambience, sometimes pale hisses and windy tones. The on-and-off languid female vocals are a little Leftfield-y. It evolves slowly and it’s generally melancholic, but the electronic pulses are prominent enough that you’re rarely allowed to proper relax in listening to it. Though it’s never out-and-out silly, things do get more wig-out at the end with the brass sounds of some bizarre Latin-sounding TV theme and some random plucked harpsichord notes.

Arguably “Moonlight Compilations” is a little self-indulgent and is a little longer than is warranted, but as an improvised bit of electronic soundscape, there’s a lush, rich feel to most of it that makes it an enjoyable listen.


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