Music Reviews

Gothic: Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre

 Posted by Steve Mecca   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 15 2016
Artist: Gothic (@)
Title: Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre
Format: DVD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
"Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" ("Piavono Ombre" roughly translated to English - "It Rains Shadows") is the third feature from Gothic, the simple name of the Gothic Multimedia Project from Italy, which started as a band led by James Maximilian Jason in 1989. From then until 2000 they produced ten music demos in a death gloom metal style. In 2004 the
GMP premiered its first proto-multimedia work - "Grim," consisting of a couple of CDs and a CD-R featuring drawings and a multimedia video melding music, graphic art and poetry. In 2007 they published something called "Anti-box," which was a multimedia reinterpretation of the aforementioned demos. Next, in 2010 they released "Clam Dolenter," an interactive film with music, art and poetry. "Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is sort of something entirely different, yet not, as it is an extension of what was previously done by the GMP, yet on a much larger scale. This is an interactive movie blending music, cinema, art and poetry. The interactivity comes from the choices the watcher must make during the course of the viewing which affects the path, or plot. One might liken it to some sort of video game, but not really, as there is no scoring points, no shooting, no winning. But like life, which is a series of choices, the thing you decide will affect what happens, and
possibly even the outcome.

The story opens with the protagonist, Alessandro Zamboni, a dull, lonely, unhappily married, middle-aged man at a seminar on Ambient Intelligence, which is rather boring. Zamboni is a corporate executive who prefers to attend these kind of events rather than face anything challenging. At the seminar he meets a former acquaintance, Gianmaria
Pagano, who is a bit of a hipster asshole. Pagano convinces Zamboni to go out that evening with him to meet some hot women. They end up at a trendy bistro bantering with two women and Pagano has the waiter spike Zamboni's drink. Later, the waiter comes back and tells Zamboni there's a phone call for him. Disturbed and puzzled that anyone could be calling him here (he didn't tell anyone where he was going), Zamboni shuffles off to answer the phone, and that is where, you, the viewer have to make the first choice - answer the phone or forget about it and rejoin your company. Whatever you do, nothing will be the same after that. Depending on what you choose, the movie takes the protagonist to a different environment with its own set of images and challenges. There is a 32 page booklet with the DVD that gives insight into each scene, and it's important to coordinate reading the booklet while watching the video if you want a deeper understanding of what you're
experiencing. It may not help you make any choices directly, but being informed is usually a good idea. Then again, you can just experience it blind, and it may end up making about as much sense as David Lynch's "Inland Empire".

Regardless of which initial path you take, down the line the viewer encounters more choices, always two, this or that. Depending on what you choose, the action, or scene goes in a different direction. Some are dead ends, sometimes literally. The text of the booklet encourages the viewer to make choices based on emotion rather than logic. I suppose I opted for a combination, depending on the choices offered. In this way, this work may not play the same for different individuals. Without giving anything away, you will encounter the art of David Bosch (who also acts as the protagonist in the movie) in drawings and paintings. Bosch's artwork is surreal, macabre and expressionistic, sometimes paying discreet homage to artists such as Dali, Munch, and others. Rife with symbolism, you could spend a good amount of time contemplating the pieces you encounter. Many of the scenes you will encounter are strange to bizarre, and the continuity could be called questionable without the booklet. The movie seems to be shot on video, so there is a low-budget look about it. The special effects are old-school; superimposition, negative colorization, grainy, split-screen, etc. You won't be seeing any expensive fancy-schmancy CGI effects here, which in a sense is a relief as that has become the staple of so many big-budget films today. The music is uniformly good, and appropriate, ranging from goth-electro-industrial to dark ambient. Most of the dialogue of characters occurs during the opening couple of scenes (before you have to make your first choice), and that is in Italian with English subtitles. There is nothing especially remarkable about the acting, but if there was, you might be tempted to form an attachment to characters that wouldn't serve you well later down the line. There are reasons for the main character seeming to act as bland as he does (initially), and the booklet explains it well. (It has to do with his indifference.)

Sort of like certain types of video games, once you have made a choice, you can't go back; no do-overs, no skipping. For example, when I made the initial choice to have the protagonist answer the phone, I found myself in a certain environment that made me wonder what would have happened had I not done so. I had to see the events play out to their
conclusion and restart the video from the beginning before I could find out what would happen had I chosen otherwise. I actually respect this aspect as it makes the viewer responsible for the choices made. There are times though that when you make a dead-end choice, you will be returned to the same choice screen (after the scene plays out) and you had better make the other choice, or you are doomed to repeat the same scene again. (The scene with the vagrant panhandler comes to mind.)

Some aspects I didn't particularly care for were scenes that seemed tedious- walking long distances in the snow with nothing happening, a long, long drive, running through a town, etc., and I felt they could have been made more interesting without detracting from the filmmaker's intent. Another was redundancy- showing the same images over and over. Perhaps I'm just too impatient. I also would have liked a bit more dialogue and character interaction after the initial scenes as it might have helped me to understand better what the protagonist was experiencing. Still, there is plenty of creativity over all, and a neat, enigmatic mystery to unravel. Some of the poetry in the book is in Italian, so if you aren't fluent in the language you will have to rely on some sort of translator or it will be lost on you. The experience can be as deep or as shallow as you choose, but more rewarding if you choose to go deep, and maybe best if viewed alone.

"Beneath the Snow - Piovono Ombre" is the result of six years of work, incorporating 28 musicians, artists, actors, graphic designers and technicians to put this together. For aficionados of the avant garde, this work will give you a lot to chew on, and its diversity (in a number of aspects) will likely have you returning to it for more.

drøne: Reversing Into The Future

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 14 2016
Artist: drøne (@)
Title: Reversing Into The Future
Format: 12"
Label: Pomperirossa (@)
Rated: *****
"A very hot day in the hills above Los Angeles… only possible to work in the mornings because of the sweltering afternoon heat, so all a bit frantic, but with a kink in time. There is no wifi-controlled air conditioning; the car is electric-powered and charging up. It has barely rained for months, (if not years) and the hoses are working overtime. Its an analogue session; Mark’s modular synth set up is working furiously and overheating. We are pushing sounds through and seeing what works… and things gradually take shape. The forms seem to determine themselves; how much control do we have? How much do we want? Some peculiar things start to happen and the haze bends. Some of the sounds seem alive and are quick to reform as we struggle to contain them, like trying to stuff snakes into a bag. The sounds moan and sing, forming their own phonemes.”. I guess these words got written by Mike Harding, being the other half of this bicephalous project Mark Van Hoen, mentioned in the third person; if you try to render the described heat and the set and the setting where this recording sessions supposedly occurred, you'll better get deeper into the amazingly mutating drones these guys wisely forged before delivering them to Anna von Hausswolff's imprint Pomperipossa. Anna herself described it as "a unique jewel". The vinyl format they've chosen required a split into two parts, but it should get perceived as a continuous track, where the initial set sounds like a rising crescendo: the heating fed a sort of tightness and a burden that got mitigated by slightly "airy" moments of the drone recurring like temporary flurries. Some short wave radio disturbed voices in the second part sounds like ghostly entities that are parts of the hallucinatory torment, inspired by a mirage, which suddenly turns into like a kind of report from a mystical experience, whose phonemes gradually begin to get more and more intelligible...

Sonologyst: Beyond The Logic Of Science

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 14 2016
Artist: Sonologyst (@)
Title: Beyond The Logic Of Science
Format: Tape
Label: attenuation circuit (@)
Rated: *****
This album by Sonologyst is an explicit tribute to the early electronic music pioneers as it's based on samples from Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Henry, Luc Ferrari, Morton Subotnick, Luigi Nono, Henri Pousseur, Bernard Parmegiani, and Bruno Maderna. This release tries to add textures to the sinewaves oriented sounds of the first years of experimental electronic giving a patina of modernity to that sound but the morphology of the original material is so pronounced that it's naturally intended to successfully fail.
When "Era Somnium" starts with the complex sinewave and the filtered voice there's that sort of suspension of time halted by the double bass of the second part which takes the track partially in the present. "Beyond the logic of science" deconstructs the sense of exploration of tones from the concern of the return of the role of mathematics into music language. "L'ordine simbolico della deferenza" reveals a subtle sense for the method to create movement into a static form, the drone. "Hommàge a Luc Ferrari" underline the use of voice manipulation while "Fragments of life" the use of tape manipulation and "Pertinence du Passè" the use of oscillators and filters. "Lost Kontact" close this release with the exploration of space in the aural field.
As an example of heterogony of ends, this release shows how this musical framework was a starting point at a sound level as a dead end at a linguistic one; from this perspective is one of the most philosophically stimulating release of the year. Recommended only for the committed listener.

Atrocious Filth: Moans

 Posted by Andrea Piran (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 14 2016
Artist: Atrocious Filth (@)
Title: Moans
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
After al least two decades of silence, Atrocious Filth returns with a new EP that anticipates a new full album. Their sound, according to the liner notes, is deeply influenced by band as Swans or Scorn whose music was difficult to obtain in communist Poland and, while their first incarnation had two bass guitar, this new line up is apparently more canonical as it features two guitar, bass and percussion.
However the role is bass remains important in a track as "Dirty 33", the opener of this release, where it creates the rhythmic structure for the noisier parts of vocals and guitar. The compact sound of "Moans" is interrupted by the frequent interludes when vocals leads more free form parts. As a departure from the previous tracks "Tesseract I" is based on long tones and resonances and the use of soprano saxophone changes completely the spectrum of their sound. "Hubris" tries a crossover between the two forms as even the rhythmic is less metronomical while in "Angst" return to a fixed structure but so slow to generate a field where guitar floats freely introducing "Tesseract II" which close the release with an impressive sense for form as it truly closes the first part.
At the threshold between a rock band and an experimental one, this release generates a sense of wait for the full length as it seems that they are moving towards from a form to another. It's really worth a listen.

Chvad SB: Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20

 Posted by Stuart Bruce (@)   Experimental / Avantgarde / Weird & Wired / Glitch / Noise / Field Recording
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Aug 12 2016
Artist: Chvad SB
Title: Phenomenalism, Cartesian Doubt and Bomb #20
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Despite album artwork that seems to channel Heath Robinson, or Henrique Alvim Corrêa's HG Wells illustrations, sonically this experimental album is firmly routed in the 1950's, citing the 1956 soundtrack to "Forbidden Planet" as an influence and sounding very akin to early BBC Radiophonic Workshop pieces.

The single 73-minute piece is programmed, in the sense that it is generated by a series of rules and loops rather than in the more common sense of programming a synthesizer. It's difficult to spot these patterns though, and the 'lead' element strongly sounds like a human being noodling experimentally on an old analogue synth in a freeform jazz style. Despite apparently being entirely generated by patterns, recognisable musical patterns are difficult to spot in the output, to the extent that I'm not completely convinced that it was algorithmically generated; I could easily believe that somebody performed this live, but that's not to its detriment. The progression throughout is very subtle and slight, and again it feels more organic than mathematical.

There's an accompanying video "response", which encompasses the whole work and which may or may not be available online (it's unclear whether this will be made public). While the audio may have strong roots in the 1950's, the video belongs in the 1980's- cheesy kaleidoscope effects, strobing video feedback loops, plasma balls and Amiga-generated graphics combine to create a visual that reacts to, but fails to compliment, the audio. The video element is expendable.

The album however is a really listenable, extremely retro-facing experimental work and a marvellous way to chill out.

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