Music Reviews

Taylor Deupree: Somi

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 09 2017
Artist: Taylor Deupree
Title: Somi
Format: CD + Book
Label: 12K
“Somi” is an interesting exercise in the organic and analogue looping of a collection of extremely mellow, clean musical sounds sourced from an electric piano, a glockenspiel, and a Yahama DX7 synth. Using a handheld tape recorder for loops adds an ambience of electroacoustic sub-hiss and the occasional microtonal tape warp that was an unavoidable irritant in the 1980’s, now rebranded as a desirable sonic wash.

Rather than being looped digitally using a DAW, every repetition is played by hand, adding natural inconsistencies. Different instruments loop with different frequencies, subtly offsetting the phase relationships between each layer. The result is a sort of wildly strung-out music box effect, extremely sedentary plucked tones that arrive sharply but fade in a languid fashion.

The track “Evode” adds a smattering of darker undertones that ebb rather than arrive, but it’s a subtle variation that doesn’t really divert from the overall tone.

The complexity of the underlying analogue production are somewhat forgotten, as the end result is deceptively simple- a pure-toned, faintly romantic, sleep-inducing (in a good way) fifty-one minutes of calm.

Simon Fisher Turner: Giraffe

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 07 2017
Artist: Simon Fisher Turner
Title: Giraffe
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
“Giraffe” is an brief collection (14 tracks, 42 minutes) but with a very ambitious scope. Combining well-travelled personal field recordings (from the UK, Germany, Japan, Portugal and Spain), both atmospheres and up-close actuality described as “life sounds”, with electronic ambiences and heavy processing, makes every piece distinct and unpredictable.

There’s a willful twistiness to it, never letting the listener be complacent. “Clean Page” sounds like a violently drunk man has wandered into a Georgy Lygeti and taken centre stage. It’s followed by “Hope Swims”, a super-soft arrangement of lullaby-esque pure high synth notes that eventually degrades with a sound akin to somebody throwing a broken electric toothbrush down a well. “Burnt In” ends sounding as though it’s about to break into some epic stadium drum’n’bass, but doesn’t. “Move More” is little more than an unpleasant sci-fi security alarm sound, while “Save As” is a mellow arrangement of piano and ambience.

Unfortunately the results do sometimes feel a little stunted. These are short, sharp works with an experimental angst and nothing is truly allowed to breathe for more than a minute or so. The false starts and abrupt turns are engaging but they prevent “Giraffe” from really gelling together as a coherent listen- deliberately it seems, with every mellow moment followed by a jarring one and vice versa. The discipline of “Slight Smile”, with its cut-up spoken-word poem, has a focus that “Giraffe” might have benefitted from sustaining.

While Simon Fisher Turner has a CV that many sound designers could only dream of (working with names ranging from Derek Jarman to The The to David Lynch to Jonathan King), looking specifically and solely at “Giraffe” what you get is an usual and broad bit of atmospheric experimental sound design, but too unfocused to really shine as a full work.

Andreas Usenbenz: Bells Breath

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 06 2017
Artist: Andreas Usenbenz (@)
Title: Bells Breath
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Klanggold
“Bells Breath” is such a pure and simple concept that it is difficult to either analyse or fault. The sound of the bells of Ulm Minster, the tallest church in the world, has been digitally stretched and then layered. That’s it; plenty of bells but no whistles, no frills, very little further trickery, principally just the bell sound, inflated and resonant, mesmerising and soporific. Though it’s theoretically minimalist, the tones are rich and broad and very warm, capable of filling a space wholeheartedly. The pieces were initially created as part of a 2015 art installation within the minster itself, but out of context, as simply audio, it’s a sound with fantastic power.

The main album is split into three studies. Each has a subtly different character; “Study III” is the simplest and purest. “Study IV” is somewhat darker and moodier, with very faint hints of percussive sound, distant ‘real time’ bell-ringing and occasional found sound ambience. The comparatively brief seven minutes of “Study II” sits between the two, still with dark tonality but a cleaner sound with fewer distant distractions.

As a digital bonus there’s also an hour-long “sleep version” of “Study III”, though it’s scarcely any more ambient than the others and personally I don’t see why you couldn’t fall asleep to any of these pieces.

Initially conceived as an in situ installation, and released on Klanggold who are themselves based in Ulm, this is a piece of art that will definitely work in your home.

Unsettled Dust: Formless Realm

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 05 2017
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Artist: Unsettled Dust
Title: Formless Realm
Format: CD
Label: Black Mara (@)
Rated: *****
Unsettled Dust is one of the few artists that could be well described as 'underground' as no information is available on the web for this artist and there's no liner notes for this release so the listener is left alone. This release is a typical dark ambient release that is centered on the development of an atmosphere and the development of a drone with slight modification to escape, or underline, stillness.
The soundscape of "Formless realm" which opens this release is as canonical as crafted: layers of sound are juxtaposed until they sound as static as moving; every section of this long track is marked by a layer in the foreground while the previous slowly enters in the background. "Stream enterer" is based on slowly moving drones which hypnotize a listener with a proper attitude. While the first part of "Appeasement" is perhaps too predictable, the second one tries to bother with subtler sounds until there's a return to the first part of the track. "Accomplishment" closes this release with a sort of field recordings immersed in a slowly moving drone which surrounds silence.
This is that kind of release that will be loved by fans of the genre as will let uncertain the listener searching for the next big thing. Nice but only for fans of the genre.

Jessy Lanza: Oh No No No EP

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 03 2017
Artist: Jessy Lanza
Title: Oh No No No EP
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
This is a collection of three remixes of different Jessy Lanza tracks, bringing out some ‘very Hyperdub’ flavours- super-deep bass and atmospherics, complex rhythm patterns and minimalistic aesthetics dominate.

Morgan Geist’s remix of “I Talk BB” is an odd hybrid of a slow, soulful, romantically-toned ballad and a cold, overtly digital tonal quality. It wanders surprising close to ‘sexy slow’ cliché territories at times and surprisingly, despite Geist’s credentials, is the least successful track in the pack.

The radio-edit-like DJ Taye x Spinn remix of “Could B U” is in like with the thread of modern pop that’s spacious, shiny, and which revels in its own simplicity; less is more here. The unexpected twist is the relentless pounding subbass, which listeners on smartphone speakers won’t even hear- it’s the focal point of the track and without which it’s about as minimal as I’ve ever heard from pop music.

“Going Somewhere” seems to be a collection of YouTube beauty tip soundbites rather than a song, with DVA [Hi:Emotions] structuring their own brand new, Funkstörung-like sci-fi electro-glitch moodscape out of it. Bleeps and whirrs and mindtwisting panning ride over a staccato rhythm.

A neat bundle of super-deep reworkings for a serious bit of late-night, eyes-closed, headphones-on action.

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