Music Reviews

Sleep Research Facility: Stealth

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 22 2012
Artist: Sleep Research Facility (@)
Title: Stealth
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Most of Cold Spring releases stands out not only for the remarkable sound quality but also for the mysterious allure of concept and this record signed under commission of Cold Spring itself by Scottish sonic craftsman Kevin Doherty, who named his dark ambient project "Sleep Research Facility" to underline his personal research about sleep-conductive beatless music, is no less fascinating both for the concept, based on one of the most mysterious military secret, the so-called Stealth (the development of its technology, which makes it invisible to radars and other detection devices, is so mysterious that someone argues its invention could be related to the finding of some alien starship), and for the sonic result, whose source (available for free on a bonus cd for people who will manage to buy one of 1000 copies of its first edition) comes from intercepted field recordings inside the hangar environs of a US Air Force base in Cambridgeshire (England) during the maintenance of a Northrop-Grumman B-2 Stealth Bomber provided by Si_COMM. Kevin emphasizes the mysterious aura of such a place all over the long-lasting five untitled tracks with a bunch of ultra-low frequencies (the ones in the first track are so low that they could shake windows and objects of your room), clouds of spooky drones (the ones in the third and fourth track sound particularly magnetic), electronic chirps, disquieting echoes, muffled roars, sonic sediments, radio signals and distant hisses, which sometimes are close to the threshold of perception. The nebulous and somehow uncanny atmosphere Kevin creates could be associated by some listeners to sonic repertory by Andrew Lagowski or Robin Rimbaud (Scanner). In order to appreciate even the most imperceptible variations and details of this record, the artist itself recommends the usage of good headphones.

DVA: Botanicula Soundtrack

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 15 2012
Artist: DVA (@)
Title: Botanicula Soundtrack
Format: 12"
Label: Minority Records (@)
Rated: *****
If I didn't know this funny release by Czech duo DVA from Trebechovice pod Orebem made up of Jan Kratochvil and Bara Kratochvilova (it cannot be but a duo, as DVA should mean "two" in most Slavic languages) had been composed for a videogame, I'd have thought they managed to observe vicissitudes of a community of leprechauns, pixies or other fairy inhabitants of some enchanted underwood and translate it into music. The idea of this collaboration came from the mind behind the curtains of Botanicula, Jaromir Plachy, who had already made a nice animation clip for DVA's "Nunovo Tango" with a style not so dissimilar from Burton's one, and even if these kinds of release are influenced by what they're bundled into, the plot of Botanicula, based on the adventures of five plant freaks (Mrs.Mushroom, Mr.Lantern, Mr.Feather, Mr.Twig and Mr.Poppy Head!) fighting against evil parasites which contaminated their treehouse (!) to save its last seed, makes DVA's more dadaist attitude come out, so that together with patent similarities - DVA never disguised them- with notorious Icelandic bands such Sigur Ros (atmospheres of tracks like "Gobbledigook" could come to mind since you listen the initial track "Juchu") or Mum (musical memories from their "Finally We Are No One" could eemerge when listening Botanicula's "Finale"), it seems DVA merge together elements from Saami, Baltic, Slavic, Finnish and even Breton folk music, chamber music, electronic glitch-pop, toytronic marches and motifs (I particularly enjoyed "Letejono", "Zatoichy" and the funny "A Major For 12 Frogs") and even some quotes from pop culture (the nicest is maybe the one in "Mrs.Mushroom Likes Lcd Soundsystem"!) with the amused creative approach of a lively baby! It's no coincidence that Botanicula won the "Excellence in Audio" award at Indipendent Games Festival.

Ernesto Rodrigues, Christine Abdelnour, Axel Doerner: nie

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 14 2012
Artist: Ernesto Rodrigues, Christine Abdelnour, Axel Doerner
Title: nie
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
While Lisbon children were walking around the city, knocking doors to repeat "Pao-por-Deus" (Bread-by-God), asking for chocolates, fruits, candies, food or money on the occasion of a celebration, which could look like Halloween, even if it was born to remember the devastating earthquake, the worst one to hit Lisbon in 1755, on 1st November 2008, a group of improvisers made up of Creative Sources' label manager Ernesto Rodrigues, the talented and somewhat bizarre German trumpet player Axel Doerner and French/Lebanese saxophonist Christine Abdelnour joined together at Tcha3 Studio to record this odd session. In the liner notes, Richard Pinnell says this record confirms his idea of actual improvised music, which recalls to his mind a drawer at his grandmother's house, full of tangled cotton and wool threads, and his children's game in pulling them in order to see how far each thread would unravel before taking "a hold in the enmeshed bundle". Pinnell's nice comparison with his childish memories keeps on focusing on the most relevant aspect of this release, id est the lack of structure, but even if there is no architecture and all canonical aspects of composition appear upside down, behind the interesting experiments on breathe insufflation, string smacking and tonal modulation, some listeners will notice a certain structure from the impression one of the three elements sounds like propping the intimate brittle skeleton of each moment, so that it seems that the intriguing techniques this trio exhibit represent a non-building made up of a pile of sounds, which seems constantly toppling as well as impossible to notate.
Artist: Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or (@)
Title: Ethnographies vol. II - Il deserto e le fabbriche
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Trasponsonic records (@)
Distributor: Trasponsonic
Rated: *****
This island where I live never ceases to amaze me for the richness and creativity of its musical offerings. Especially into our scene of industrial and electronic music, which usually is thought to be restricted and much less busy than other musical genres. What I present is in fact another excellent production of Trasponsonic Records ( a small and interesting independent Italian (and Sardinian) label which turns out to be a source of unexpected little gems of sound. Trasponsonic is little, but very active. The label is founded by our friend and musician Mirko Santoru, that keeps it well hidden into his shelter based in Macomer (a small town in the internal territory of our Sardinia). But sometimes, from this "buen retiro", Mirko with Trasponsonic and his band of musicians seem suddenly exploding, in the silence of the countryside around, all the crash of masterpieces like this album which is titled "Il deserto e le fabbriche' (in english: the desert and factories). This new work is signed by the collective sound project called HBOL (acronym of Hermetic Brotherhood Of Lux-Or) involving different musicians and performers (in this record appears the names of Campostorto, Miroslaw, Varrs, Tonj). The work is also the second chapter of an interesting anthology entitled "Ethnographies - Musee de l'Homme Hermetique'.

We'll tell you immediately what I think. This double cd "Il deserto e le fabbriche", the first time I've listen it, surprise me like 'a couple of punches in the nose when the guard is low...!' Because all of its tracks have real musically force inside, have roughness and hardness, sound tribal and industrial at the same time. Are not surely easy to listening. But also are not easy to forget. And this strange feeling 'after listening' left me by the sounds and the noises of Hermetic Brotherhood Of Lux-Or is a really positive sensation was actually difficult to find, for me, even into the works of many groups of gray-area are surely most famous and popular of them. This disc breaks the nasal septum. And we bleed for its sounds but also for the important substance that contains, really conceptual and dense. The two CDs are in fact marked by a boundary line that is well described in the cover notes. The first disc is cryptically subtitled as "Jesus And John Wayne" and i read into that, and I seem to hear, all the red hot sounds of the desert and together all the sand in the eyes during a long ride through the American wild west. This sand in the eyes, for us, is the same Grand Canyon's red earth to get dirty and covered everything. Wagons, horses, cowboys and Indians. That sand was also a mirage and a dream, for us Italians. The sand of the myth of the great wild frontier, as seen through the innocent eyes of our little Italy. A distant mediterranean's country that was fed for a long time with the utopic imaginary by '60s western movies or with the fake and simple optimism of that classic 'american way of life' ever in black and white.

The second disc, entitled equally cryptic "... and Justice for Hollywood" takes us back to a different imaginary. A sub-urban and actual imaginary compound from other deserts of metal and dust. The urban deserts of much industrial archeology close to our cities. The inert metal of abandoned and disused factories and assembly lines broken. The place of human labor that have been broken by the unbridled capitalism that destroys men during its run, destroys cultures and ideas, leaving only rubble behind. Another imaginary, probably common to many provinces of the Western empire. Imagery that is common in this Sardinia Italy, and this affected by industrial decline like some poor distant provinces of the country which was certainly the most heavily industrialized long ago. The other conceptual element that characterizes all the works published by Trasponsonic is, in my opinion, its search for a new road. A road which is sound but it is also philosophical, to a neo-pagan mystical and anthropomorphic, combined with the primitive tribalism. Concepts that reinforce with the use of the raw material of the primordial elements, in a mixture of men and earth, water, air and fire. United by sound and noise.

Perhaps these aspects of his philosophy more intimate would be enough to urge you to look and buy this gem, which you can order directly online at Trasponsonic that sells and distributes on its web site all its work. But if philosophy is not enough you know that the sounds that come from this research are certainly no less profound. The two discs have a feeling old, long ago, but vital, modern and close to us. Almost hear them breathing and panting beside us. All the tracks seem filled with a sound that is tribal and violent. Sound that is material but also dreamy and distant. Sound hard and blood, near and maternal at the same time. This sound is a alien mantis, made of flesh and metal, which feeds on your blood and surrounds you giving you his warm milk.

Even the best trained ears to the post-industrial sound could be damaged hearing songs like "Hyperion Sunset" or "Gravity Sucks" contained in the first cd "Jesus And John Wayne" that could be called a disturbing and dark 'avant-psychedelic rock'. But you'll easily attracted by things that remind us that the best Current 93 chant mantras and eastern litanies with other sounds and atmospheres worthy of the best 'spaghetti westerns' with a soundtrack by Morricone.
If you open the second cd and listen to songs like "Violet Pride" and "Red Rage" will find stunning examples of epic tribal and industrial noise. But I doubt any free resist coming to the end of the last half hour of apotheosis song called "Yellow Avaritia". Because there are tracks in this record that sound like the Laibach, the Trobbing Gristle, and the Zero Kama with the Kranioklast had gathered, all together, inside a deep cave to play steel pipes and human hollow bones. And I must also tell you that the Hermetic Brotherhood of Lux-Or the sound really hollow bones! I saw them live in a M.S. Miroslav, and struck a magnificent skull of horse he assembled and electronically modified with effects and pick-ups to transform it into a modern electro-noise amplifier instrument.

I will stop here. And I want to use. to close this review, the words of Julian Cope, the well-known musician, who arrived here in Sardinia thanks to his passion for archeology of prehistoric megalithic that our land is rich. Cope has discovered the charm and sonority of the work of Trasponsonic and he on his website defines this disc enthusiastically in this way: ... a severe form of Kosmische Musik.... utter vocaleptic brainstorms, eternal drumclatter, caveholler, lo-lo-fi Neu 2-style thrash, epic sub-Faust mung worship and seething half-hour-long Zoroastrian ambulence of the dark stasis variety...

Helm: Impossible Symmetry

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Industrial Noise / Power Noise / Harsh Noise
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Jul 10 2012
Artist: Helm (@)
Title: Impossible Symmetry
Format: 12"
Label: PAN (@)
Distributor: Boomkat
Rated: *****
One half of presumably ended project Birds Of Delay, Luke Younger, comes back with his solo project Helm on the appreciated PAN label, who hosted on its catalogue the personal project of the other half, Steven Warwick aka Heatsick as well. Helm's talent in noiseshaping merges with references to rich and psychotropic British post-industrial and ritual scene, which often resurfaces during the listening of this record since the first track, "Miniatures", where some listeners could perceive echoes of Coil together with sketches of a sort of psychogeographic documentary of East London, when noises of trains running on steel rails can be distinguished in the sonic obscure stagnant pond evoked by the track, which sometimes looks like a frightening collage of sounds grabbed by a microphone placed on connecting rods of a train or on switch locks of rail tracks (there's also a peep which could come from an accidentaly squelched mouse...). Whereas the following track stands by what title says - "Liskojen yo" is a vernacular Finnish way, meaning "reptile night", to name heavy hangover after massive consumption of alcohol - by a rich and suitable collage of sounds which could be associated to post-alcoholic giddiness, "Arcane Matters" is redolent of daydreaming nearby seashore as the combination of noises and sea rumble let the listener imagine an amount of noises coming ashore and piling up with slime, dead jellyfishes and rubbish till the disturbing final part where a sinister and violent hit on a gong fill the sonic space on a background which looks like grabbed from a kindergarten and "Stained Glass Electric" sounds recorded with microphones put inside flasks during the preparation of explosive acids. This visionary recording ends with disquieting rumbling and strongly piercing whispers of "Above All And Beyond", a mysterious way to sign off this adventorous listening experience.

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