Music Reviews



VV.AA.: 14 Tracks: Crepuscular Electronics

 Posted by J Simpson (@)   Techno / Trance / Goa / Drum'n'Bass / Jungle / Tribal / Trip-Hop
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 17 2013
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Artist: VV.AA. (@)
Title: 14 Tracks: Crepuscular Electronics
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Boomkat (@)
Rated: *****
Boomkat.com's 14 tracks series takes you back to the glory of high school mixtapes, except in this case the friend making you the tape happens to be one of the world's leading purveyors of cutting edge electronic music. In short, they have all the good shit, the best stuff. On Crepuscular Electronics, released in October of last year "with an emphasis on slow, squashed beats, half-heard vocals and introspective autumnal atmospheres," (from the press release). I'm happy to report that this music is not seasonally effected, and the greyscale techno and vacuous romance of these 14 songs sound just as good on empty winter avenues.

'Collapsed' from Emptyset, taken from a recent 12" from Raster-Noton, opens the gates with 4 minutes of scouring static and tectonic bass, the slimiest, most earth-shattering industrial techno yr likely to find, before the mood lightens with the robotic salsa funk of Lukid's 'Manchester'. It's a slowly evolving locked groove, engineered to roll yr eyes up into yr head while yr feet pound unyielding concrete. Kingpin Andy Stott shows up with 'Expecting', cavernous echoes like dismembered memories, voices rise from the deep to swallow you whole. He takes his time before cracking the dam; a hefty 4/4 basskick comes on like an unstoppable war engine, loose chains clanking and rattling about its feet. There's slithering slime in the margins, filling the stereofield with details. This whet my appetite to have more AS in my life; the man is a boss, rightfully lauded, and bringing his black-clad comrades with him.

'Salt On The Wound' by Afterhours, from their first vinyl release on LA label Not Not Fun, is a slow groove, a midnight burn. Beatport described Sleepwalker as "like a surveillance camera through shimmering tunnels, glowing skylines and empty streets". Its a dystopian romance, a drunken cab ride into the sunset. It reminds you of Blade Runner's neon apocalypse, if its futuristic cityscape were on a volcanic island. Vessel's 'Aries' is one of this set's highlights, another slow smooth groove, full of buried sex and hidden intentions. Its like a late night tumble, with fractured chemical fantasies. Simultaneously disorienting and alluring, Sebastian Gainsborough pulls you in and fucks with yr head. Vessel is another highlight of the rising current of post-punk electronics.

The heads at Boomkat must've been on a roll at this point: 'Open To The Dark' from 1991 runs 'Charlotte Sometimes' by The Cure through a mangled-tape blender, smashing it together with blissed-out futurist synthesizers, and minimalist computer exotica. Its like a memory of the '80s, collapsed into a singularity. I'm glad to hear the futurism of that decade returning to the forefront, recalling a time when newer was always better, when anything was possible. Even if they are invoking it 30 years later. Canada's No Ufo's (named after a Model 500 song) were a new acquisition from this crop; the grooving, strobing dub techno of 'Petit A At 90' owns up to their namesake, smooth and deep and fierce, slowly growing and dissolving, floating in an amniotic limbo of its own making. Elements drift and reappear at apparent whim, making this a monster of a dancefloor nightmare. This would be right at home in a 3 am set somewhere backlit, guaranteed to put yr revelers in the zone.

It would take too long for me to describe every track in detail. They're all good in their own way. Let me be brief: Porcelain Raft's 'Talk To Me' is a churning, noisy R&B ballad. 'Still Here' by Clara Intelecto is the finest of the second half of this record, climbing high on my list of favorites from 2012, and etching its way into my penultimate pantheon. Its gorgeous, reverb-laden piano hangs over the warm round bass like the Southern Cross. This music sounds timeless, ancient; the strings are straight out of Silver Screen hollywood. This is music for epic romance at the end of time. 'Kiss me yr beautiful/these are truly the end days'.

Silent Harbour's 'Descending Radius Curve' is an unsettling listen, reminding us that industrial music and dark ambiance are still alive and quite unhealthy. 'Brook' by Throwing Snow is a kaleidoscopic journey through a radioactive arcade. 'Impasse' is the second best track of the latter half, brought to you by the intentionally misspelled Ssleeping Desiress. It sounds like latter day Coil, Gabriel Ramos doing his best John Balance (R.I.P.) over Aurora Borealis synth washes, before breaking into a dub reggae groove. This is fine make-out music! 'Bola 4' from Alex Under is 10 minutes of sound poetry, slowly growing into a dance floor bricolage. Not for the faint of heart or for the impatient, but yielding interesting results to the binaural adventurer.

Last but not least, 'Mighton Ogan Lode' from Oberman Knocks is pure paranoid fantasy, all ties from reality severed, floating in a cosmos of broken thoughts, trapped within the prison of unyielding flesh. The last two tracks of this record have mostly foregone any condescension towards the dance floor and the traditional avenues for electronic music. "a place where ideas learned from ambient techno, pop, hauntology, and sound design play out a wealth of affective emotions, textures and groove," (press release).

This is a long listen, and the continuity of tempo, mixed with the abstract electronic and disregard for pop tropes like builds and breaks, means that this will not be for everybody. But for anybody that likes to slap on a pair of headphones and go for a walk in the cold, this is a godsend. Its a useful who's who of a very singular strand of modern Techno. Its often bleak and cold, but its also romantic. This crop of producers are extracting the DNA from all the electronics of the '80s to make mighty mutants of sound. Call it cybernetic, call it futuristic; the cats at Boomkat will never steer you wrong, take you further and deeper than ever before!

Billy Roisz: Walking The Monkey

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 16 2013
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Artist: Billy Roisz (@)
Title: Walking The Monkey
Format: 12"
Label: Mego (@)
Rated: *****
This solo debut album by Austrian experimental video and sound artist Billy Roisz, known for her talent to render experimental music into visual imagery, sounds like a sort of anarchic transposition of suprematist praecepts from plastics to electricity after yuppifying them by means of contemporary treatment of frequencies and an impressive weaponry of instruments and unstruments, i.e.remote-controlled instruments where a device (normally a computer) goes between instrument and performer, such as electric bass guitar, kakophonator, kluppe (a linux-only open source loop-player and recorder, developed by Dieter Kovacic aka dieb13, who already collaborated with Billy), Flower Electronics Jealous Heart (a small battery-powered modular synthesizer, which is quite good to produce chatic clashing sounds) and a set of audible video devices. On "Walking The Monkey", she manages to organize corrosive flow of noises by tantalizing vortexes of spooky mid-frequencies ("Blue Hairy Tongues"), progressive saturations over tonal curves which look like following hyperbolic trend ("Spinning The Ecstasy"), sonic peptic ulcers (the distant smooth jazzy excerpt on the incipit of the title-track "Walking The Monkey" could let you imagine the possible mishap of an heavy drinker after many drinks), fermentations of stunning drones ("Feeding The Monsters"), thunderous flashes of noises which broaden over the sonic sphere (particularly on the track "Wave Your Hand To Sleepy Land", whose title conveniently quotes Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"...a possible reading which could match the listening of Roisz's sonic sculptures) and high-pitched sharpening death throes of sound ("Under The Influence"). If you appreciate modulations of noise and similar stuff, just give heed to this stuff.

MRKVA/BOLKA: s/t

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 14 2013
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Artist: MRKVA/BOLKA (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: LOM (@)
Rated: *****
I've already spoken about the creative explosion related to electronic music (and not only that) in many Eastern European countries, which sometimes experience some troubles in getting visible in the cluttered music scene, at some other time so that the venture by LOM, a small group of people which is trying to help unknown or forgotten deserving experimental artists from that geographical area (particularly from Slovakia for "logistical" reasons) to gain some visibility is praiseworthy. This first physical release is a split mini-album, co-signed by a couple of talented Slovakian sound artists, Jonas Gruska aka MRKVA and Matus Kolka aka BOLKA: the first one is a performer, sound artist and electronic instrument engineer, also known for his project Binmatu, who attended the prestigious Institute of Sonology in The Hague (Netherlands) and Music Academy in Krakow (Poland), where he studied composition and electroacoustic music, while Matus is a rising star of Bratislava experimental scene with a mania for building his own software instruments. On this release, they focused on the sonic representation of a dystopian (but not so far from forthcoming technological mischiefs) future when we will deal with swarms of nanotech insects. They both render them by means of sizzling electric sounds, but while MRKVA prefers to focus on electroacoustic devices and tricks with a huge quantity of gurgles, creased radio frequencies, warped cries, fragmented voices and other corrosive sonic secretions, which sometimes could remind the noise of ear drops for softening wax in the event of otitis, BOLKA builds glitch soundscapes by inserting sonic layers and more structured cluster of noises, temporary magmatic spills and efferent sonic "mistakes" (MRKVA seems to buil a linkage with this compositional approach in his last track "Anders"). Interesting offbeat stuff for tuned-in listeners.

Quarz: Five Years On Cold Asphalt

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 12 2013
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Artist: Quarz (@)
Title: Five Years On Cold Asphalt
Format: CD
Label: Crónica (@)
Rated: *****
Slithering low frequencies, oxidised sounds, dull tumbles, subdued shouts and a general feeling of decay impregnate the first part of this one track album by Quarz, a Wien-based collective project assembled by versatile musician Alexandr Vatagin, member of Tupolev and Port-Royal and label boss of Valeot Records, who involved many musicians of the lively artistic entourage of the Austrian capital, such as Stefan Meneth (Radian, Lokai), Alexander Schubert (Sinebag), Nicolas Bernier, Martin Siewert (Trapist, Heaven And) together with two guests, Bernhard Breuer (young drummer of Elektro Guzzi and Metalycee) and David Schweighart, Tupolev co-airman, who gave same field recordings on the occasion of "Five Years on Cold Asphalt". Then the sound perks up before alternates ups and downs, so that it could surmised a sort of underlying narrative intent about the facts of life, where temporary relief gets followed depressive moments in an erratic way. Such an epic odissey conveys the musical path by each contributor and even if there are some occasional hesitancies, this hybridization together with a certain shoegaze-like approach succeed in avoiding that high-falutin drift, which is quite common for similar bands. Quarz sometimes lacks in that completeness which has been reached by other ensembles, but they're coming closer and closer to it.

Chagas Curado Viegas Wind Trio: Old School New School No School

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Feb 10 2013
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Artist: Chagas Curado Viegas Wind Trio
Title: Old School New School No School
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
Although their sound cannot be considered as totally original, the skills of these three Portuguese musicians and authentic musical "spin doctors" on wind instruments, Joao Pedro Viegas (soprano and bass clarinets), Paulo Chagas (flutes, sopranino clarinet, oboe) and Paulo Curado (soprano and alto saxophones, flute) as well as their extended techniques, the clear mastery on their sounding tools (and their lungs and breathing apparatus indeed) and their wise sonic "portraiture" make this recording really palatable to followers of the genre. In the gurgling cauldron of broken phrasing, whimpering whiffs, rambling melodic lines and brave climbing on diatonic scale, there are many courses for imagination in the basket which nearly achieve cinematic fumigations ("For Emir", "Fake Camerata", "Nice (Bardot) or nice (Hayworth)" or the amazingly drunk "Bottleneck's Dream Song") and bizarre espousing of performative hints from ethnic musical language ("Articulated Ruidisms", "Stucked by Muffled Reed's Flattersung", "Meditation For Beginners"). On "Old School New School No School", a title which seems to be in correspondence to respective training, Wind Trio manages to whisk a remarkably high number of stylistical recipes on a sort of page-turner by means of an histrionic oomph.


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