Music Reviews

Artist: Debmaster, DJ Die Soon, oki-chu
Title: ammo Hung II: Cursed Demon Seasons
Format: 12"
Label: Le Petit Mignon/Staalplaat (@)
Rated: *****
Okay folks, it's VINYL TIME! Finally getting around to giving some platters a spin and first up is 'Sammo Hung II: Cursed Demon Seasons' with music by Debmaster and DJ Die Soon and graphics by oki-chu. Debmaster (France) and DJ Die Soon (Japan) are two Berlin-based music producers, and oki-chu is a reknown Tokyoite surrealist painter/illustrator. If the title of this album sounds like a videogame to you, you'd pretty much be on the money. The videogame is in your mind though, so don't go looking for it at your local Gamestop. This is a split LP (limited to 297 hand-numbered copies, pressed on clear vinyl) in which Debmaster gets side 1(Invasion Side) and DJ Die Soon has side 2 (Crash side), 4 tracks each. According to the one-sheet, Debmaster's side (subtitled "Levels of Crevology") is "like the soundtrack of an apocalyptic video game of which you would be both the hero and the villain...Debmaster delivers a hybrid cocktail of playfulness and darkness...blending bounding kicks and deconstructed beats, obsure and droning industrial soundscapes, wrapped by electro acid strains." DJ Die soon titles his side "The Shimmers of Hell" and "immerses us in the black hole...a compact space sprayed by hip hop tones and saturated beats, overwhelmed by heavy bass and a piercing foam of noise." That's a pretty accurate description of what's going on here in this entirely instrumental opus. There's a whopping amount of repetition overall, but somehow it never gets boring. In a way, you almost feel like you're actually inside the game rather than an outside spectator/player. Even with all the repetition you can tell a huge amount of creativity went into this, and sometimes like on Debmaster's "FK" things are complex as hell. If you're not much into hip hop (I know I'm not) don't let DJ Die Soon's side scare you off, because this ain't no conventional hip hop; it's experimental all the way. The only thing hip hoppish about it is the pacing of the beats.

It's hard to say which side I liked better as they both have their merits. I will say that the last track on each side is rather mind-blowing. For the tech curious, Debmaster made his side using Push 2 and Oto Biscuit, while DJ Die Soon plays SP404 and MPC1000. Although you can listen to all the tracks on Staalplaat's Bandcamp site, I'd highly recommend the vinyl as it's a keeper, limited, bound to go out of print, and the fantastic 6-panel artwork by oki-chu makes this a genuine collector's item. (You also get a digital download card.) For the intrepid electronic music enthusiast who loves vintage videogame music.
Artist: Ekin Fil
Title: Ghosts Inside
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Agency
Turkish drone-pop creator Ekin Üzeltüzenci’s latest solo album is a melancholic affair channeling personal anguish into deeply sad arrangements where organic guitar and piano sounds meld with synthetic atmospheres and slow, dream-pop vocal hums. Wind tones frequently wash over the top for added texture. The result is an introspective sonic expression of misery that’s at times quite powerful, at other points bordering slightly on the self-indulgent.

Highlights include the extremely filmic and deceptively simple “Episodes”, with its glass melodic notes and windy atmosphere, and “Final Cut” which has a similar make-up but more piano driven. It’s a strong formula that goes unbroken across the forty-minute release.

Tracks like “Like A Child” and “Before A Full Moon” have a strong ballad heart to them, but it gets washed away by production that sometimes seems wilfully muddy, designed to make the individual stems less distinct as though lacking in confidence somehow.

“Ghosts Inside” sits somewhere between two stools- dark and inaccessible in some ways, yet not allowed to explore its full potential for longer or deeper experimentation. It’s one of those releases that actually feels too consistent. As such it feels almost like a gateway listen for people not yet adjusted to full-on ethereal soundscapes.
Artist: Graeme Truslove
Title: Intuited Architectures
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica
Graeme Truslove’s sonic mosaics use glitchy, electronic sounds to create gently disquieting ethereal soundscapes full of synthetic bubbles, clicks and pitter-patters. Exploring automation techniques, Truslove generates music that seems to be disassembling and reassembling itself.

The opening “Suite II”, in three parts, is generally quite frantic. Tones and layers shift impatiently, never settling into one arrangement for more than a few seconds. It’s a sometimes unpleasant bath to wallow in, often abrasive, yet at other times pretty.

“Elements” is somewhat simpler and darker, with some John Carpenter-esque elements as low impossibly-sustained piano notes underlie ghostly noises.

“Concrètisations X” is mellower in tone and puts the emphasis back in the micro-cut noises, complex, mechanical and challenging the distinction where one person’s ‘deconstructed’ is another person’s ‘broken’. At the beginning and end there are crunching, biting notes, but the second half certainly returns to the underwater feeling, with waves of slow breathing and muddy, deep rumbles.

Longest piece “Strata” is more audibly dominated by strained and rapid sounds sourced from a guitar- objects being dragged up the strings, guitar bodies being tapped and pulled and so on. The energy of this appears to run out after five minutes so we move to an environment of light industrial drone, one that makes you realise the importance of the space inbetween which is sometimes a little bit overlooked in these arrangements. The manner in which the guitar, and other new elements slowly reintroduce themselves is the most beautifully controlled section of the album, before another drop after fifteen minutes with guitar tones bringing us full circle to a close.

The self-devised digital instruments and processing give “Intuited Architectures” a character that’s unique, yet not a country mile from the well-trodden paths of sonic experimentation of this kind. It’s a little too manic too often for my tastes but it does exude quality and care.
Artist: Jonas Kesper Jensen
Title: Layers Of Bridges
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
“Layers Of Bridges” is a set of barren computer-generated sonic landscapes. It’s a relatively established arrangement of digital hums and unnaturally long reverbs, counter-playing tones and wave synthesis. While the track names have an architectural theme, sonically this is open, near-empty space.

Each of the seven tracks is exactly 5:30, and most fade in and out, as though each environment is infinite but 330 seconds is the permitted visiting time. Each environment is relatively static- there’s a faint degree of evolution within pieces like “Thru Arch” but for the most part it’s eventless.

“Stay Girder” opens with a repeating piano note that suggests the arrival of new structure, but the reverb and layering soon degenerates the note into a sonic bath that fits the rest of the pieces; imagine “I Am Sitting In A Room” based on a single piano note rather than the spoken word.

The exception to this format is the fifth track “Culvert”, which is a discordant and unsettling loop of electronics with a tense throbbing bass tone. Were it not for this track, and perhaps the distant drilling sound of “Channel Beam”, this release would be going on my ‘music to sleep to’ playlists, but this track is an anachronistic wake-up call.

As a complete work it does fall a little short of distinctive flavour or character but as a surprisingly soporific collection of rigidly prescribed hum soundscapes, it mostly works very well.
Artist: Luca Forcucci
Title: The Waste Land
Format: Tape
Label: Crónica
The title track of “The Waste Land” is an unusual example of soundwalking- strolling about gathering atmospheric found sounds and ambiences. While the process often leads to broad and relaxing soundscapes, this is a willful inversion, heavily processed, twisted and alienating. Strong gusty winds and heavy industrial noises of unknown origins lead to a scene that’s almost post-apocalyptic in its atmosphere. At times it sounds insular, almost claustrophobic, with noises akin to deep breathing noises recorded from underneath a coat. Over the fifteen minutes of the title track the sounds evolve fairly rapidly- at points there’s just a single layer, then before too long there are four or five competing noises.

“Voices From The Coal Mine” is an exploration of reverberation in a gigantic enclosed space- sporadic metal hits and scrapes fade into the distance with incredibly long echo tails which begin to layer and form their own, wall-and-material-born hum.

“My Extra Personal Space” is initially a slightly more typical and familar soundwalk- village sounds of gates, passing cars, church bells and birdsong- but as it progresses, further metallic hums and tubular resonance begins to cut through, as though something very sinister is afoot in the previously peaceful town. It all gets a bit “Village Of The Damned” in soundscape form. As it evolves further we move from Normandy to Paris, with more urban noises, metro announcements and suchlike, as though we’ve travelled more in time than in space.

“The Waste Land” is an unusual hybrid of found sounds and treatments, infused with a lot of energy. It covers a lot of ground in 37 minutes and is certainly an interesting, if not always comfortable, journey.
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