Music Reviews

Paleowolf: Genesis

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 19 2017
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Artist: Paleowolf
Title: Genesis
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Paleowolf is the side project of Scorpio V of Metatron Omega and this release is presented as "a prehistoric journey from before civilization made its mark on the world". This means that a particular descriptive effort was made in the development of this release to resemble the cinematographic idea we have of those people so there's a palette heavy focused on those sounds we culturally perceive as primitive.
The heavy beats of "Call of Fire" introduce a sort of harmonic chant which set this release closer to certain ritual music rather than dark ambient. The wind instruments used in "Archaic Eon" creates an atmosphere of menace which is loosed by the chants. The field recordings of a river introduce "Hunter II", a track based on a strong rhythmic cage where the voices remind the hunt of the title and create a cinematic effect. "Earthspirit" is a meditative track focused on drones so the drums underline the atmosphere rather than drive it. "Eastern Tribes" continues the path of the previous track sounding as an interlude to the final tracks of this release: "Across the Mythic Ocean", a track whose atmosphere is often solemn, and "Permafrost" whose overall quietness reminds the phenomenon of the title.
An unusual release from this label that is usually really focused on a particular variant of dark ambient based on detailed drone and crafted sound. The use of chant, drums and the religious atmosphere created by the chants a sort of easy listening ritual music which will be enjoyed by most fans and is without pretentious ambition. It's worth more than a listen.

Johannes Malfatti: Surge

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 19 2017
Artist: Johannes Malfatti (@)
Title: Surge
Format: CD
Label: Glacial Movements (@)
Rated: *****
The first release by Johannes Malfatti is described as inspired by geological processes which are slow and on another scale in respect of the event commonly perceivable by human senses. This approach of time closely resemble the late Morton Feldman but, instead of working on a time scale which is difficult to manage by the listener's memory, he works on sound structures which are simpler to decipher i.e., drones, and working on details which require a certain concentration to be appreciated.
The piece start quietly with the introduction of the main drone which will slowly evolve until the end of the track but, under this static canvas, a series of other sound events e.g., samples, other drones and even field recordings, or so they are perceivable, appears so it's something as a detailed landscape which is covered by a thick mass of fog; at first sight, there's only the perception of the fog but, after a little adaptation, the figures in the background appear. This is true until the clock marks the first half of the track which, after an interlude closely resembles a field recording on snow moved by wind, there's a return to the form of the first half of the track and, when the drone starts to develop, the underlying interlude reappears to introduce the final part for sustained tones of synth which close this release with a development on timbre and volume.
This release has two faces: the first one is that is compositionally a little too derivative from his models to be effective in the realization of his ambitious goals. The second one is the impressive craft in the sound construction which let all the details arise in the audial spectrum. Only for fans of minimalism and reductionism.

Akira Kosemura: One Day

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
New Music / Downtown / Avantgarde Jazz / New Classical / World
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Feb 17 2017
Artist: Akira Kosemura (@)
Title: One Day
Format: CD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Kosemura's imprint released a lot of lovely stuff in the last year. One of the most recent output is the 7th solo album by his label boss, coming out just three months after "Momentary: Memories of the Beginning," his 6th one after five years of no new items to his discography. Both of this recent releases are superb and remark the recognizable aesthetics I often spoke about when I introduced Akira's music, combining nuances of French impressionism, soundtracks, minimalism, ambient and spots of electronics, but I decided to focus on "One Day" due to some exciting features. First of all, it got entirely composed in one afternoon and such a spontaneous immediacy is evident while listening to the ten lovely improvisations he recorded before the wise mastering at Black Saloon Studios by British sound engineer Mandy Parnell (former collaborator of well known and respected names of contemporary scene such as Bjork, Aphex Twin and Max Richter), who succeeds in emphasizing the vintage beauty of Akira's mono sound recording, where the ambient noises (the crackling of the seat, the sound of the tapping on piano keys and so on) grabbed by one microphone didn't get intentionally removed - a guessed choice, ageing the sound like a picture got aged by a Polaroid -. Such a recording closely relates to the second relevant feature of "One Day": Akira performed and composed it on an old piano he used to play in his family home since he was a child. Such a familiar environment and the genuine immediacy strongly influenced the sound, where tones and melodies seems to speak out and continuously intertwine with the memories that resurfaced out of Akira's thoughts on that beloved instrument...and who knows, maybe some of the tunes he recorded in "One Day" were the ones he used to play many years ago. I'm pretty sure Akira will help you recollecting forgotten and beautiful memories of your tender age... while playing in background, a friend of mine movingly- and without any apparent reason - shared some memories of a peacock he liked to feed when he was a little child, whenever his father brought him to a park in the city centre of his hometown. I recommend testing the effect on your memories of Akira's homemade stuff.

Arovane + Porya Hatami: Organism

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 17 2017
Artist: Arovane + Porya Hatami
Title: Organism
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Karlrecords (@)
“Organism” is a German-Iranian collaboration. Arovane’s other releases have had IDM beats, but this is essentially rhythm-less soundscaping. It’s predominantly a rich base environment with an analogue and biological feel, very insular and akin to alien womb recordings. Whatever the titular organism is, we’re clearly inside it.

There are sporadic and more digital elements in the upper registers either flitting through the scene or barely audible in the distance. Sometimes they seem like micro-samples, sometimes like arcing electrics. It’s these that make the overall tone so difficult to judge. Are we feeling warm and comforted here, relaxed and safe? Or is there a distant threat and a mysterious unknown outside that might be getting closer? It’s genuinely difficult to tell. This must be what being a nearly-born baby feels like, albeit without the constant heartbeat noise- though heartbeat-like sounds do appear on the fourth “Rhizome”.

Many of the pieces are single-note, single-tone, though in tracks like “Specreature” there’s a more traditional lyrical melody at play, albeit one that’s very very far away, and “Tuber” makes use of that distant echoing bell sound that’s really getting rather common in soundscape pieces. People who are extremely sensitive to nails-down-a-blackboard noises may struggle with “Macro Organism”.

Between most of the tracks there’s a “Rhizome”, a short and slightly glitchier interlude that’s marginally more analogue-synth-knob-twiddly than the longer pieces, with slightly more prominent mechanical and outer-space flavours. Other than those, “Organism” is predominantly very consistent, with no surprises or gear shifts in its hour-long span.

There are a lot of releases which sound like this; perhaps this is a little deeper than average but it’s a very familiar concoction. With a little bit of playlist pruning you can still get an enjoyable soporific night-time album out of it.

Michel Redolfi: Desert Tracks

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
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Feb 15 2017
Artist: Michel Redolfi
Title: Desert Tracks
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
Imagine a desert where the sand is metal dust, the wind is gentle and feels digital, but dangerous monsters sometimes roam, sometimes issuing threats. “Desert Tracks” is the soundtrack to that environment, realised at length. Epitomised by central track “Death Valley”, this is experimental ambience that’s deeply disquieting, but without using all the usual distortion and white noise tricks. Whole seconds go by silently as you wait, almost nervously, to hear what sound approaches next.

It’s not quite all barren empty space. “Mojave Desert” concludes as an inebriated collection of train rolling stock noises, with the metallic scrapes continuing to pitch up and down on top. “Palm Canyon” briefly features a busy mechanical chaos akin to listening to the thought processes of a thousand metal ants, before it disappears abruptly and we return to the desert wash. The same track ends almost ironically with birdsong and a brief cameo of warmer chords. “Too Much Sky” is somehow warmer and more playful, but only relatively so, and ends with two minutes of actual silence (don’t tell John Cage’s lawyers…)

Michel Redolfi is a veteran of French electronic music, having worked with Luc Ferrari, Pierre Henry and more. This is a reissue of a 1988 album based on the sounds of a 1987 California Desert road trip, created with a room full of electrics and electronics, creating something that could now be generated on a laptop. Released as part of Sub Rosa’s “early electronic”, it now sits somewhere between the truly cutting-edge experimental electronics of the 60’s and the bedroom PC experimental boom of the 90’s and beyond. It’s an interesting timepiece but not perhaps a spectacular listening experience in its own right.

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