Music Reviews

Artist: Sum Of R (@)
Title: Ride Out The Waves
Format: 12"
Label: Storm As He Walks (@)
Rated: *****
On the occasion of his remarkable self-titled album on Utech Records we already introduced this skilled Swiss project by Ural Mambo (together with Steven Hess from Locrian, On and Haptic) and Pendulum Nisum (together with Mike Reber) member Reto Mader aka RM74, a polyhedric musician and composer who alternate on bass, drums, percussion, piano, effects and synthesizer. Some of the most attractive aspects of Sum Of R's sound lies in the combination of a sort of ominous apocalyptic imminency, one of the most recurring and reasonable leitmotiv in the range of sources for inspiration, with a certain gore, which gives forth from sometimes unpredictable combustions of doom metal, industrial, instrumental rock and drone. On "Ride Out The Waves", which come out on a very limited edition of 300 copies printed on clear crystal vinyl for Storm As He Walks imprint, Reto Mader co-operates with guitar player Julia Wolf, who already performed with him in many venues by means of her heavy strokes on strings, and emphasizes the ritual aspect of the project, which according to their own words describes "a Rite of Passage, a complex way to go through any common idea of genres using a living and dynamic approach to find a balance between darkness and light, powerful riffs and subliminal melodies, ritual drums and rarefied atmospheres". To be honest, their sound looks like more obscure than bright, even if it got settled on remarkably sturdy stylistical grounds. The isolationist temperament of the initial "Growing Into Something Special", which soom turns into a sort of burdening sepulchral advance, curdles in the following doom-oriented "In The Fields Of Trust", where the typical sinister pace of doom sound (I could mention OM or Sunn O))) in order to give you an idea of the stylistical field they cross) got partially conjugated by unexpected flashes of exuberance which connotes many Swiss band (think about Swamp Terrorists or Alboth!) and captivating harmonic deflections. After the compressed agonizing pitched piano strokes of the saddening "Mist Of Tears", desolation, anger and baleful fibrillation chorally coalesce in the coupled track "Echo" and "Captured Ligthning", which clear the ground for the final harbinger of disaster and shellshocks on the shambling "Alarming", where they make their sound even more hypnotic by means of a screaming rough theremin and warning sirens.

The Slaves: Ocean On Ocean

 Posted by Vito Camarretta (@)   Ambient / Electronica / Ethereal / Dub / Soundscapes / Abstract
Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 31 2013
Artist: The Slaves (@)
Title: Ocean On Ocean
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency (@)
Rated: *****
There's a wide generation of musicians who are hanging on that idea of frail and fleeting beauty, whose inflection points ideally build an embankment against a supposedly decadent and invasive reality as well as safe mental abodes which could correspond with distant sidereal cleft, vivid remembrances of childhood or maidenhood and other aesthetical escape hatches. The possible stylistical terms for comparison such as Grouper, Cocteau Twins, Cranes or Barn Owl of this likable release by Portland-based duo The Slaves, made up of Barbara Kinzle and Birch Cooper, liaise with many different musical languages for the translation of this mood such as dark, post-rock or math, while it seems The Slaves don't turn their noses up at some sonic hints of witch-house and drone-ambient as the recurrance of quadruplet of bi-tonal based slow lines and the way they transfigure guitars and pads which often sound like equipped with organ-pipes. A sort of self-induced hypnotic suggestion permeates their sonic ravelling so that the pleating of original sound seems to turn into a gust of wind slamming on the doors of crystalline cages by reaching remarkable qualitative peaks and entrancing afterglows in tracks like "Sweet High", "Shadows II", whereas songs like "I'm In Heaven" or "Wild Ride" sound like attempts of reawakening buried alive bacchanals.

Heidi Mortenson: Mørk

 Posted by Barton Graham   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 24 2013
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Artist: Heidi Mortenson (@)
Title: Mørk
Format: CD EP
Label: Rump Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
After a 4 year hiatus, Heidi Mortenson returns with 'Mork' and a vastly different style of music than her previous works. This is a much more chill, down to earth, organic and dark release than her previous effort. She also returns to her native Danish tongue on this one, which adds a subtle exotic taste as well as a sort of refreshing detach in that the (non Danish speaking) listener can absorb the sound as a whole and feel more of the pure emotion that's represented on this disc.

'Mork' starts out with 'Side A,' which is three songs, all of which combine these minimal, yet meaningful and strong beats, with a relatively small number of layers of instrumentation, but again, very strong, very effective. From fun and quirky yet astringent synth textures, to believe it or not, nearly epic horns that just MIGHT even be appropriate for riding into battle. The vocals are smooth, smoky, seductive and alluring. They pair so perfectly with these songs. Track 3, entitled 'Underkast' (which translates to 'Submission') is the perfect example of all of these traits which combine into a cabaret/almost noir-esque piece which invokes visions of a smoky, futuristic lounge or nightclub with its spotlight shining down on the woman onstage the only source of light, and the band master has a drum machine atop a full sized grand piano style midi controller.

'Side B' which is just a mere two songs, is even more relaxed, slightly more organic and takes off a bit of that digital edge, bringing you back down to earth. 'Alt I Alt' (All in All) is much sadder, more low key and emotional than the first half of the disc. And it's followed by a slow and beautiful solo piano piece that reminds just a little of the album 'Screws' by Nils Frahm. He wrote and recorded the album after breaking his left thumb and was unsure if he would ever play piano again, to which he responded by sitting down, armed with 9 fingers, and began to play and record these little pieces at night. They yielded these beautiful, delicate and vulnerable works; and that is how I would describe the closing of 'Mork.'

All in All (no pun intended) it's quite an extraordinary little EP with almost no flaws, missteps or downpoints.

Night Sins: New Grave

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 21 2013
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Artist: Night Sins
Title: New Grave
Format: 12"
Label: Avant! Records
Rated: *****
Night Sins 'is a band coming from Philadelphia that born in 2011 from members of hardcore bands Salvation and Mother Of Mercy. "New Grave" is their first album released by Italian label Avant! and it doesn't sound nothing like hardcore or such. "New Grave" is a nice nine tracks album which musically is inspired by 80s darkwave. If you are already fans of The Tunnels or The Soft Moon you could easily find yourself comfortable into listening tracks like "Playing Dead", the experimental "Introduction" or "The Eternal Giver". Mixing shoegaze vocal melodies to paced drum machine drumming, powerful bass lines and guitar lines which now are clean arpeggios and then "clouds" of distortions, the duo wrote cool songs which will please the lovers of 80s new wave music as well as lovers of modern indie sounds who'd like to paint their music playlists with darker sounds... As usual with Avant! releases, I'm writing their Bandcamp page where you can listen to the whole album and then make your purchase.

Ballo Delle Castagne: Surpassing All The Kings

 Posted by Maurizio Pustianaz (@)   Dark / Gothic / Wave / New Wave / Dark Wave / Industrial Gothic
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Jan 19 2013
Artist: Ballo Delle Castagne
Title: Surpassing All The Kings
Format: CD
Label: Blood Rock Records
Distributor: Black Widow
Rated: *****
"Surpassing All The Kings" is the newest Ballo Delle Castagne album and the first one to be released by a different label than HR!SPQR. Issued by Blood Rock Records and distributed by Black Widow, this album probably is their one which sounds more influenced by progressive rock. I don't know if this depends to the fact that all the music have been wrote by Diego Banchero (also active with Il Segno Del Comando, Egida Aurea, etc) but the ten new tracks offer strong hard rock influences (see the guitar riffs on "Il Risveglio" and the following "Il Viaggio" or the massive use of organ) and powerful drumming. While the old recordings by Ballo Delle Castagne where mostly resulting from improvisation sessions, "Surpassing All The Kings" sounds definitely less psychedelic, more focused on on progressive rock and also a bit more experimental (check "Rorate Coeli" which is based on strongly filtered bass guitar sounds, synth noises and Latin lyrics). Checking the songs' titles and the lyrics "Surpassing All The Kings" seems to be a sort of concept album where life and the quest for true self are seen as a long voyage that knows no limits: there's no time and nor matter. Maybe because of this, the opening and the closing songs refers to Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, two-thirds god and one-third man and to his search for immortality. Harder and stronger than the previous releases, "Surpassing All The Kings" is the best Il Ballo Delle Castagne release to date...

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