Music Reviews

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.
Apr 03 2017
Artist: Wolf & 111X
Title: Final Star
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Infinite Machine
Wolf’s second release on his own Infinite Machine label is a thumper, consisting of two original tracks and two remixes.

The title track is generated by taking the ingredients commonly used in cinema trailers for sci-fi and action movies- gut punching brassy bass notes and super-thick single kick drums at the bottom, alien-sounding tension strings and sharp effects at the top- and reworking them into a post-dubstep thumper. The ‘Zimmer horn’ is used liberally and despite the relatively slow pace, it’s a relentless exercise in non-subtlety.

Second track “Wounded Alien” has the same sonic core but is a little more cleverly structured, with a hint of large-scale industry and a sense of heightening tension. While the opening track takes soundtrack soundscapes to extremes, the second track could potentially have been an actual soundtrack- with a little more ebb and flow this could have been the score for a superhero fighting robots in a giant warehouse- that’s the universe we’re in with this.

Astrosuka’s remix of “Wounded Alien” takes the track into deep space, thinning out and glitching up the percussive elements and bringing the softer plaintive top synth lines forward, with W3C’s elongated take on the same track gives things a more methodical feel, with a heartbeat-like kick drum and very slowly building, tribal-meets-industrial drumming.

It’s a thick sci-fi-meets-slow-techno package that will appeal to people who love cinema trailers for the sheer thrill of the subbass and who aren’t too fussed what the film is actually about.
Artist: Strotter Inst.
Title: Miszellen
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hallow Ground
As Strotter Inst., Christoph Hess plays with the mechanics of turntables as a physical instrument, rather than a record player. For almost two decades he has avoided using other people’s records, except when asked to do remixes. With “Miszellen” there’s a change of heart- he decides to take stems and elements from others, from artists that theoretically have influenced him over time, and warp and abuse them in a variety of ways.

Every track bears the name of an artist whom Strotter Inst. is paying tribute to, or heavily borrowing from, depending on how you look at it, but with the letters ordered alphabetically. This includes Asmus Tietchens, Nurse With Wound, and Tasaday. This inadvertently turns it into a bit of an alternative music quiz- “AABDMORRS”, anyone? How about “GIILLMSS U”?

While as a concept this might suggest that “Miszellen” is raw, sharp and analogue, the result is certainly none of those things. The raw ingredients are, as far as it’s possible to tell (they’re not credited), sourced from music concrete and avantgarde classical sources, along with electronic drones where it’s hard to tell whether they’re being played in, or whether they’re Strotter Inst originals.

Understandably, with such a variety of sources, the net result sits somewhere where several labels, though none of them would stick totally comfortably. There are dark industrial synthwave elements, there’s drone, there’s noise and found sound, there’s aspects of super-slow techno and more. The predominant mood is tense and ominous and there’s a lot of prevailing space.

There’s 70 minutes of material here, giving plenty of time for tracks like “ACEEH IMNSSSTTU” to swell into extensive filmic soundscapes of slowly pulsing bass notes with building, distant drumming. “DEHIN NOR STUUWW” is an accomplished piece of many parts and is at times reminiscent of Jimmy Cauty’s “Space” project but with an overriding sense of being further away. “146DP” and final track “ARLTU” both begin as a simple piano patterns which are then wrapped and then smothered in glitched electronic noise. “EFOSTU” features ambiguous vocal noises, while on “ÄDEKL” there’s the rare appearance of a discernible vocal sample, with a strangely cowboy swagger to it.

There’s a good balance between consistency and variety here, and it’s generally hard to distinguish where the original material ends and Strotter Inst.’s reworkings begin, which is a good sign. It perhaps never truly shines as a work that’s either attention-grabbing or beautiful but it’s a very coherent body of work that’s got some distinct character.
Artist: Babils
Title: Ji Ameeto
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sub Rosa
Babils’ fourth album, their first without founder member Michel Duyck, is a pair of sixteen-minute-long prog-rock wig-outs that hark back to the 1970’s heyday. Gently distorted guitars fed through rich analogue effects, rasping indistinct trumpet noises and muddy reverb-soaked vocals hanging on a string in the vicinity of lyrical structure, are constantly underpinned by a regular 4/4 bassline and steady live drumbeat that keeps everything at least vaguely grounded and prevents each piece from wandering into the stratosphere of soundscapes.

Each track starts off with a structure that’s almost pop music- French vocals on the title track, and sometimes hard-to-distinguish English lyrics on “C'est la raison pour laquelle nous ne cesserons jamais de recommencer”- showing that a steady groove and song structure is the seed from which each improvised adventure grows.

This is a release with more than one foot in the past, it’s practically prog nostalgia. Extremely brief glimmers of what may be more modern effects processors don’t shatter the illusion. An indulgent LP to enjoy with long hair, tweed and a lava lamp.
Artist: Janek Sprachta
Title: Grow
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Midira Records
Multi-instrumentalist Janek Sprachta’s second solo album fuses electronic soundscapes with more traditional piano, guitar, and drums, The clicks and warm hums of the electronica layers are very familiar, the typical and common noises of this light drone genre- beautifully smooth and deeply cathartic, a soothing bath of gentle sound and extremely reverberant, immersive atmosphere. What prevents this release from sounding wholly generic is the acoustic feel of the real instruments.

“Domi” has gamelan-like sounds and a touch of Eastern flavour, while the second track- whose name was badly mangled by the encoding in the promo I received so I’m not even sure what it’s called- is a brief, gently electronica-sprinkled piano ballad.

Sprachta’s primary musical day job is as a drummer, and it’s on “Stones” that he indulges himself with a drum-led piece that’s a masterful bit of balance- part show-off drum solo (light and jazzy, certainly not rock), but part carefully measured and controlled groove. Throughout the whole album, the temptation to show off, the prog rock indulgence of “look how good I am at all these instruments” is admirably and consistently resisted- even down to the modesty of the 36-minute total running time.

“Hello World”, in two parts, opens with a particularly cinematic string-heavy tone of melancholy, before filling out to the album’s busiest section, with a mood of concentration and a sense of passing time. It’s crying out to be paired with a short animation film about loneliness.

The final track and title track “Grow” is more than twice as long as any other track and an opus in its own right. There are subtly William Orbit flavours in the synth arrangement but with a much wider sense of space. It opens with a couple of minutes of ballad piano which you expect to return towards the end, but instead, we drift off into a supremely long fade, as though finally succumbing to sleep.

The result is an album that just shines with quality. While not breaking any new ground and while not as experimental or avant garde as they might want you to believe, nevertheless it’s a magnificent and beautiful bit of work.
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