Music Reviews



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Artist: Keru Not Ever
Title: Tereza
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
“Tereza” is a collection of angular, glitchy cold synthesized soundscapes, mostly arhythmic yet still percussive. It’s a January release that conjures images of some of the less mellow aspects of Northern winter weather.

There’s a variety of moods here, ranging from the expansive emptiness of the contrarily-named “Closers” to the threatening claustrophobic spikiness of “Blue Strobe Pastiche”. Each piece tends to around the five minute mark, which is mostly fair as the progressions and evolutions within each are subtle, though not non-existent. In the final minute of “Closers” there’s the distant sound of techno, as though you’re stood at the North Pole surrounded by snow but suddenly you realise there’s a nightclub two miles away.

There are faintly Eastern and ethnic tones in tracks like “Ode to the Past, Present and Future” and “Fusing Zeitgeist” which seem anachronistic in the mostly icy environments, yet they end up fitting rather nicely and giving the album a more distinct identity overall. Meanwhile, more esoterically, “Airflow! Velocity” samples something akin to the sound of trainers (sorry, ‘sneakers’) on a basketball court while a bulldozer approaches to demolish the gym- sonic combinations so random and disassociative that they stop being evocative of anything and become attention-seekingly weird in their own right.

The latter sections of the album settle down somewhat, from “Dogville” to the end, is mellow longer tones prevail, natural piano noises tinkle and the sidechained processing calms.

Overall it’s an unorthodox twist on a fairly well-established cold soundscape style, with an interesting if not constantly welcoming character.
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Artist: Kryptogen Rundfunk (@)
Title: Liquid Circuits
Format: CD
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
Active since 2004, Russian ambient/soundscape artist Kryptogen Rundfunk (M.M., aka Artyom Ostapchuk) is also the head of the Zhelezobeton label, a label that's had some very cool new music on it in my estimation. I'm very glad they keep sending me stuff. Kryptogen Rundfunk is a great name by the way, sounding like a character from a cyberpunk novel. This is KR's second solo album in 12 years, the first being '22.SZ' in 2004. In the interim, KR has been active doing splits and collaborations with artists such as Lunar Abyss Deus Organum, Sister Loolomie, Bardoseneticcube, Neznamo, Hladna, Forgttn, Umpio, and others. My most recent encounter with Kryptogen Rundfunk was on the 'Now It's Dark:David Lynch Tribute' with one of the better tracks on that comp. Here, KR employs analogue synths, effects processors, found sounds, samples and multiple kinds of radio noise. This is a very active kind of ambient over the seven tracks on 'Liquid Circuits,' and may fall more into the experimental-industrial than strictly ambient. Although the opener, "Subaudition Coils" is kind of a calm Blade Runner type of ambient, the followup, "Iridescence" eases you into a busier electronic environment. With repetition in loops, the firing of alien sci-fi oscillators and various types of noise (used to good effect I might add), you absolutely get the impression of some type of futuristic industry. In comparison, "Pyramidoid" seems minimal with its pervasive buzzing drone. M.M. really seems to have mastered the creative use of LFos as they are an integral part of his soundscapes. As you go deeper and deeper into 'Liquid Circuits' the atmospheres become more dense and intense, and also somewhat noisy. Twisting oscillators snaking through some of the most noise-tastic environments I've heard with garbled radio transmissions sounding completely extraterrestrial. Yet there is a terrestrial grounding in this; an undeniable familiarity. At times chaotic, but even the chaos is ordered. By the time you get to the seething conclusion on "We Forget," the firmament has boiled over and coalesced into something completely different. And thus, you should feel somewhat changed by the experience. If they ever decided to remake Godard's "Alphaville" or "Forbidden Planet," I'd recommend Kryptogen Rundfunk for the soundtrack. Masterfully mastered by Kshatriy, and limited to 333 copies.
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Artist: Merzbow / Raven / Dao De Noize (@)
Title: Animal Liberation
Format: CD
Label: 4iB Records (@)
Rated: *****
I was quite familiar with Merzbow’s work, but Raven and Dao De Noize were new to me. The press sheet describes the first two tracks of harsh noise (if the inclusion of Merzbow hadn’t clued you in yet) as “complex with a high level of hypnotic and sonic energy. The message of what these artists stand for are uniquely expressed by heavy layers of organic sounds, high frequency screeches and low level drones that almost sound like animal screams and grunts in the abattoir.” Hmmmm…. if I had not read the press sheet and just heard these tracks absent the album title, I would never have known. Even the track titles do not really give us a clue. After all, “Unjustified Murder” could just as easily be a Slogun song (or any other power electronics artist, for that matter). And yeah, before you ask, I get noise. I’m a noise musician too and have been listening to this stuff for 20 years. So let’s get into it. Merzbow opens up with “Granulation 221,” a track that features a drum machine run amok and a cacophony of other noises. This is the harsh noise wall that Merzbow is known for, but I have to admit that it gets a bit dull in the middle. At around 14 minutes in it gets a pounding beat that breaks it up for a bit and from this point on becomes more engaging with shifting waves of sound. Next up, we have Raven, the work of Serbian artist Djordje Miladinovic. “Unjustified Murder” is a 10 minute slab of noise that is much more engaging than the previous track, but no less ear cleansing. Nicely done, with a good balance of high pitched white noise and low frequency rumbles. Finally, we have Ukrainian artist Artem Pismenetskii, who records under the name Dao De Noize. This is a departure from the harsh noise wall of the previous two tracks; the press sheet describes it thus: “The tranquil hums overlapped by murmuring soundscapes with the background beating of hearts and animal bellows, bleats and cackles complement and complete the album.” For once, the press sheet is pretty accurate. The composition actually evokes the title of “Slaughterhouse Diary,” with the coldness of machinery drowning out the high pitched wails. The ending heartbeat-like thuds at the end was a nice touch. Of the three tracks, this is the standout of the album. This disc is limited to 200 copies and weighs in at around 50 minutes.
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Artist: Remora
Title: Scraps & Scrapes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
When Silber Records, who often send EP’s that are only five minutes long in total, offer you an over-six-hours, 98-track compilation of leftovers and studio floor scrapings, from an artist whose twelve previous albums you’re not familiar with, do you dip into it and treat it like a sampler? Or do you listen to the whole collection in a single sitting and see if it can stand in its own right as a listening experience? I tried the latter, and six and a half hours later, have mixed but mostly positive feelings about it.

Remora is Brian John Mitchell’s solo project, blending guitar drones, feedback, effects, soundscapes and heavy atmospheric processing into an output that’s got a slightly familiar avantgarde feel to it. Sonically it’s not a revelation. Sometimes the slowly-evolving industrial textures are like a comforting yet dissonant bath, an opportunity to take a relaxing holiday mostly far away from structure or rhythm.

The decision to include what feels like every single leftover that could be found on tape or disc feels like an almost arrogant refusal to assess each piece’s merits, resulting in a mixed bag. Pieces like “We’ve Only Just Begun” and the excellent “Framb” are fully realised post-punk atmospheres, flirting on the outskirts of white noise in a slightly Resonance Association-like manner, easily deserving of expansion in their own right. “Slow Ghost” is a hypnotic mood that could have been taken on its own hour-long evolution.

Other tracks however are failed dead-end experiments that understandably didn’t earn their place in any of the previous ‘proper’ albums. Tracks like “Nemo” are harmless noodling, while tracks like “MB1” are cathartic messing-about-after-a-bad-day-at-the-office pieces- we’ve all done that and enjoyed slapping discordant sounds and painful distortion as a way of relieving tension, but most of us would rather delete the results than share them. Vocal snippets like the rather daft “Hangin’ Tough” (the weirdest New Kids On The Block cover you will ever hear- seriously) and a liberal smattering of fairly awful but mercifully short bedroom-style song recordings (among them “For The Love Of Ravens”, “Love Song”, “The Running Man”, and “Hope For Christmas”) frankly make you wish the collection was entirely instrumental.

Towards the end of the collection there are a range of much longer drone pieces, some of which are seemingly live in front of an audience, such as “The Heart That Kills” and “When The Blood Has Turned To Dust”. Four or five of these gathered together could easily have formed a solid hour-long drone album in their own right, and if you can be bothered to playlist them into a workable order, you can build your own tracklist with them. While I might not revisit the whole six-hours-plus collection in a hurry, I’d happy repeat-listen to an hour’s worth of this drone material.

Other oddities include “They Feed At Sunrise”, which feels like an exceptionally long intro to a prog rock concert, and the semi-synthetic Americana tones of “I Need New Pedals For Christmas”. “Headkick” sounds like it’s itching to break into EDM, but never quite starts, and “Dance Anthem 116” is the sound of somebody messing around with synthpop keyboard presets for a few minutes. “Improvised Tinkering” is a rather neat bit of sound design that, again, would have been worthy of a longer independent life.

With a bit of thoughtful curation “Scraps & Scrapes” could have been made into a seriously impressive three- or four-hour package (preferably an instrumental one!). As it is, its formlessness and slightly over-frequent dead ends and very rough-edged vocal ideas leave it feeling a bit underbaked. That being said, at time of writing “Scraps & Scrapes” is a ‘name your price’ offering on Bandcamp, so if you only choose to pay a price equivalent to a regular album, there’s easily enough quality material in here to make it a worthwhile listen.
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Artist: Svarte Greiner
Title: Moss Garden
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah Recordings (@)
“Moss Garden” comprises two twenty-minute soundscapes that are as darkly beautiful as the cover art suggests.

“The Marble” is a moderately cold atmosphere of long sustained string sounds, echoes and mechanical hums, as though a familiar but melancholy melody has been stretched beyond its elastic limit. It’s hard to dissect the sources, the underlying bed could be industrial machinery or the sound of a sleeping lion, or both.

Second track “Garden” is a slightly more sinister, faintly more discordant affair. Sparse but loud percussive moments, that possibly once resembled piano sounds, sustaining at length and gradually echo away into an emptier version of the space of the first track. The variation in volume is gradual but extensive to the point where listening in anything less than a soundproof environment makes the music disappear into your own environment. In the final three minutes, new and more synthetic elements arrive to shake off any complacency.

Svarte Greiner recently supported Jóhann Jóhannsson in a live performance, which is apt; some of this work is reminiscent of Jóhannsson’s but minus the central score, leaving only the ambient surrounding space, so as such it would have made a very appropriate scene-setter.

This is a high quality, bold and in some ways strikingly simple soundscape that, despite being so sparse, still manages to demand your attention.
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