Music Reviews

Barnacles: Air Skin Digger

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 19 2018
Artist: Barnacles (@)
Title: Air Skin Digger
Format: CD + Download
Label: ADN Records (@)
Rated: *****
Hot on the heels of the review of Barnacles collaboration with Maurizio Bianchi we have Barnacles (Matteo Uggeri) latest work - 'Air Skin Digger,' an album of 4 long compositions made using only 4 sound sources per each, all cannibalized from other works done in his more than 20 year musical career by Uggeri or with his band Sparkle in Grey, or with other collaborators. No digital sounds have been used in the recording, but only instruments such as viola, bagpipes, trumpet, guitars, gamelan, and unknown devices. The four tracks all have lengthy, but ultimately highly descriptive titles. 1. How a slave who perpetually defamed me and desired to have me killed, was himself eaten and killed in my presence. 2. Of the manner in which the savages ate a prisoner and carried me to the feast. 3. How the savages ate the second roasted Christian called Hieronymus. 4. My prayer to the lord God when I was in the hands of the savages who threatened to eat me. The artwork by Uggeri himself is an interpretation of the woodcuts taken from “True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World, America)”by Hans Staden (c. 1525 – c. 1576), which compliments those track titles.

Although there is a certain ritualistic ambience in the music (mainly due to the rhythm/percussion), it certainly seems to be an abstract interpretation in total. Track 1 has a rather somber mood, at least until the drumming enters the picture a little over 3 minutes into the piece. It's jazz inspired and polyrhythmic in stark contrast to to the droning ambience. Track 2 begins with repetitive looped guitar riffs later giving way to some indistinguishable samples (field recordings?) while a steady beat emerges, The looped guitar samples are manipulated over time in such a way as to be in sync with the rhythm where before they were just disjunct elements. Barnacles gets a real groove going, then stops all dead but the beat, and morphs it into something almost completely different. Remember from earlier - there are only 4 sound sources employed here. While you may be getting the impression that this music is improvised, it is actually highly structured. Track 3 sounds like the most ritualistic of the lot, perhaps in part due to the exotic flute sounds and bellish tones. There is a calm before the storm here with various sonics in play, but the tension is palpable as the rhythm begins to build in its tribal fury. It's more of a seething sort of tribalism than war-like manifestations, and you could imagine it as the background for some sort of sacred ceremony, perhaps where ayahuasca or some other natural hallucinogenic was involved. Track 4 begins with somber strings but it isn't long before they are supplanted by a driving rhythm and indistinct lengthy agitated conversation samples. When the drums die down we''re left with an interlude of lengthy dialogue sample and the return of sad strings. The drum rhythm creeps back in but its different this time; less driving and more ominous. Eventually, fade to black.

This is an enigmatic work to say the least, and that these compositions were made using only 4 sound sources is remarkable. Although this album may never end up being number one on your hit parade, it is something to turn to when you're looking for something completely different. Limited Edition of 300 CDs, but as of this writing, there were only 17 copies left.

M.B. + Barnacles: Sidereal Decomposition Activity

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 19 2018
Artist: M.B. + Barnacles (@)
Title: Sidereal Decomposition Activity
Format: CD + Download
Label: Artoffact Records (@)
Rated: *****
M. B. is Maurizio Bianchi, and Barnacles is Matteo Uggeri, two leaders in the modern Italian electronic industrial avant-garde. Bianchi (in case you didn't already know) is a pioneer of industrial music going way, way back to the earliest 1980s. To list his credits and collaborations would take more space and time than I have available. Matteo you may know from Sparkle in Grey, some of whose works I've reviewed here in the not too distant past. The first collaboration between these two came about in 2007 with the release of the album 'One Single Sound' . On this recording MB provides analogue noises, drones and melodies, while Matteo utilizes beats, keyboards, field recordings and Tibetan bells. Drum work is done by Simone Riva and Cristiano Lupo. As MB describes the music of this work: "Astral melodies are excavating in the eruption constriction, while a neurotic fall scratches extemporaneous sidereal manumissions. The salubrious dynamism is compatible with the invisible decomposition but a paranoic infinity recalls an overcast activity for a cosmic relativity. Unearthly diagnosis cheers the outward for a screaming Armageddon, grinding through our nocturnal energy in the consolidate universe."

The album is comprised of four long tracks between 8 and 13 minutes length. Opening track "Infinity Cosmic Eruption" begins with sustained cymbal(s) or gong(s) ringing out and some thumping around as well as some other unidentifiable bits of sound. Out of this comes a heavy rhythm on drumkit with a sustained harsh, cutting drone. Most of the harsh portions of the drone eventually subside over time replaced by some noisy electronics. Various electro-acoustic sounds can be heard, often echoed off, as the piece deconstructs in a piercing, whistling drone after the drums drop out. Title track "Sidereal Decomposition Activity" has loopy abstract semi-melodic electronics over a beat that sounds Native American. Over time the rhythm gets jumbled through sonic manipulation and loses its straight path morphing into something more freeform. All the while these improvised electronic sustained tones keep right on playing. There is somewhat of a psychedelic ambience to it all, and when the drums return in a different pattern, I'm reminded of some of the Krautrock experiments of the 1970s.

The end of this track with its spacey, echoey electro-drones moves seamlessly into "Astral Fall Dynamism" and I suspect that the ebow guitar is largely responsible for some of those sounds. Here everything is mixed into some type of strange brew with elements of electronics, plunked and rapidly fingered stringed instrument(s), amongst other sonic effluvia. It's a dense, abstract porridge of psychedelia obviously intended to be mind-blowing. As with the previous, the looped electronics/noise drone blends seamlessly into the next (and last) track "Unearthly Armagheddon Energy". Heavy orchestral strings, fizzy noise and a rudimentary rhythm that seems to turn into a chugging steam train. The string pads on this one remind me a lot of Tangerine Dream's use of them, but on which album I can't remember. Nostalgic, at any rate. The whole thing had me thinking of Kraut rock experimentation of the 1970s as a pastiche of the genre. I don't know if that was intentional or subliminal, but the ethos seems to be there. This is certainly not an album for everybody. There is no concession to commercialism in any regard, and although I wasn't hearing anything that I haven't heard before in one way or another, it still makes for an interesting listen.

Rowland Yeargan: Close Your Eyes

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 14 2018
Artist: Rowland Yeargan
Title: Close Your Eyes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Media
Silber Media’s ongoing and always intriguing ‘5 in 5’ series- where an artist offers up 5 tracks with a total running time of exactly, and only, 5 minutes- offers up another interesting nugget here. Made up of five diverse sonic ideas, like working prototypes of longer works, “Close Your Eyes” distinctly feels like a sampler, but it’s a sampler leaving you wanting more.

Between the distorted drone noise of “Make Haste”, the optimistic layered-up piano of “Breathing In And Out”, the organ drone and throat singing of “Everlasting Heart”, the avantgarde-jazz-esque cymbal work on “Look Into My Eyes” and the synthetic semi-alien choral tones of final track “One Day Today”, this feels like a showreel for a film soundtrack.

A really intriguing listen, if something of a tease!

deNeuve: Light Heeled Fleet Footed Cheap Artists

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 04 2018
Artist: deNeuve (@)
Title: Light Heeled Fleet Footed Cheap Artists
Format: CD
Label: Blowpipe Records (@)
Rated: *****
If there's one thing you can say about deNeuve's André Bach & Mark Tegefoss is that they have a pretty cool warped sense of humor. Just take a look at the mugs on these geezers the CD cover with its title - 'Light Heeled Fleet Footed Cheap Artists'. What deNeuve have come up with here is 10 tracks of looped madness. Conceptually, the elements employed consist of some sort of rhythm, or rhythms; some electro-acoustic ambience; film dialogue samples (which the one-sheet described as "cinephonic voices"), guitar samples and sometimes something resembling a melody. Not really much more than that. The results are often quite beguiling, likely because the way these pieces are constructed. No two pieces are alike, and each seems to resemble a different mood or concept. While some might feel these tracks are experimental, I can tell deNeuve have done plenty of experimenting in their time, and by now their modus-operandi is time-tested and their methods are sound. Put simply, this is just what they do. To an extent, this is similar to Brian Eno's 'Music for Films' but filtered through the lens of The Residents. On each of the tracks there is plenty of repetition but certainly that is the point. It is not always done in the same manner, and they seem to strive to make it as interesting as possible. The flavor can range from alien/abrasive ("Four Bouncers in the Alley"), to strangely eerie and foreboding ("Red Kiloherz"), to weirdly bizarre ("Gorky Toys"), to hallucinatory jogging ("Very Happy"), to bad band night at the Haunt ("Cheap Artists"). Okay, well the last one is sort of an "in joke," but you get the drift. Those cinephonic voices samples used in these pieces were never meant to be understood in their original context here, and are usually manipulated sonically well beyond comprehension anyway. They're just another element of the track they are incorporated into. While not every track is a fun-filled phantasmagoria (some are creepy to the point of perhaps being evil), this may be as "pop" as deNeuve ever gets. Six of the track off this album are remixes of the LP by the same name deNeuve released last year making it a fresh product from the original LP. Playfully industrial, and definitely worth a listen or three.

dormir dans la chambre froide ?: Taboulet Razzia

 Posted by eskaton   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jun 30 2018
Artist: dormir dans la chambre froide ?
Title: Taboulet Razzia
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
The band describes themselves as psychedelic / no wave, and their biography states, "Oublie tout. Ce sera mieux que de tout oublier," which Google Translate tells me means "Forget everything. It will be better than forgetting everything." So let’s get into this and see how this translates into sound. If the description was supposed to set us up for weird, I was a bit unprepared for the level of weirdness I was about to encounter. “Le Monde A Grandi” opens the disc with a slow moving, grooving track. Slightly distorted spoken word (in French?) permeates the track, as the bassline is punctuated by analog sci-fi bleeps and squalls. “Rewind Me” keeps the weirdness coming with more of that analogue goodness with a heavy dose of reverb for good measure. It sounds like they decided to sample an old 8-bit video game soundtrack and reconstruct it in new and different ways through a circuit bent Casio synth. And, of course, there is the obligatory cassette rewinding sounds in the middle. Overall, this is a lot of fun, and fun is sometimes in short supply in the experimental scene. All I can tell you is that I had a smile on my face listening to this, and I suspect that they put on a great show. The closest comparison that I could come up with here is The Residents. I totally didn’t expect to find something like this among the Inner Demons roster, but that is certainly not a bad thing. For a good time, pick this up. This album weighs in at around 19 minutes and is limited to 42 copies.

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