Music Reviews

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Sounds From The Matrix Vol. 19
Format: CD + Download
Label: Alfa-Matrix (@)
Rated: *****
A great way to discover new music and bands (or maybe some bands you already know but haven't kept up with) is through label compilation CDs. For the electro/industrial/synthpop genres, few do it better than the Alfa-Matrix label. This is their 19th label compilation, and that has to count for something. Alfa-Matrix comps can also be collector's items after they go out of print, so it's worth getting the physical CD. I can't say I've been lucky enough to own many of them (I think I acquired
one years ago, but can't remember where it is now) so I can't compare this one to others, but there is plenty of really cool stuff on it. Twenty tracks by twenty different artists, and I can only give a thumbnail description of each. Begins with ElektroklÄnge doing "Heimkonsole" (Mehrsprachige Version), a retro Kraftwerkian number with vocoder German vocals, steady kick for the beat, and bubbly synths. Low key but effective. Metroland offers "Man in a Frame," with spoken male & female vocals in the same mid-tempo rhythm as the previous track. Nice noirish synthwork. AD:KEY picks up the pace with "Reanimator"(Phoenix Version), more German vocals (male & female), in monochromatic melody, and the enhanced rhythm makes for good dance fodder. ELM's "Wapenrustning" (Hard-Mix) begins with the vocal chorus - "Know your place in the food chain" so you'll know right off the bat what this song is about. Carried off with a basic beat and nice bass synth groove, but not much more than that. Mildreda's "Neon Eon" starts out with a jarring vocal sample - "I said your fucking baby's gonna burn" and the music is full of plenty of industrial samples and sounds amidst the synths with
vocals that border on hellectro. It's kind of a mish-mosh but still pretty cool. Then you get "Blowback" from Psychic Force and this is a monster of a dancefloor stomper. The hook is in the instrumental synth break, and although the melody sounds like something I've heard before, it still carries some weight. Vocals sort of along the lines of early Front Line Assembly. Star Industry's "Shiver" (Aesthetische Cold Mix) sounds like John Foxx gone electro-industrial. So far this is the best realized track on the CD, with really good hit potential. "Anathema" by Crytek offers both raspy and clean vocals, but it's the clean vocals that have the grabbing hook. Mondtraume shows you "All You Cannot See" (Crytek Mix) and though the vocals are kind of "meh" it has a good driving beat. Kant Kino's "Wrong" sounds right to me with a really good chorus hook and brief amusing sampled phrases. Junksista featuring Essence of Mind disses "Monday" (everybody hates you), and sort of sounds like two different songs, but is memorable enough. I'ce already reviewed Psy'Aviah's "Game Changer" on the "Lightflare" album review, but it fits in well enough with the other tracks on this comp. "Kamikaze
Angel" comes courtesy of Helalyn Flowers, and it's the kind of track that makes you want to hear more from this band. Powerful female vocalist sounding like Pat Benatar gone electro-industrial. Outstanding, and another highlight from this comp. "Dead Sea" by Lovelorn Dolls didn't impress me nearly as much; sort of came off like Bel Canto gone metal. Sin.Sin featuring Helalyn Flowers has a moody groove, but wasn't nearly as good as Helalyn Flowers' "Kamikaze Angel." Imjudas is the dark
electro project of maXX from Helalyn Flowers (that band seems to have their prints all over this comp) and "Tulpa" sounds like Duran Duran gone dark electro. If nothing else, Komo Kommando will likely be remembered for their catchy "Music is My Religion"; just one of those songs that invades your brain and won't let go. Now here's a blast from the past - Mentallo & the Fixer with "Methodical Damage." Every lesson these guys ever learned from Skinny Puppy is packed solidly into this
instrumental track. Not likely to get much radio or club play but it's still loads of industrial fun. Implant's "The Phone Call" (Implant RMX) is strange and experimental for sure. Weird techno meets performance art. Final track by Schwarzblut is indeed an interesting one. Classical meets EBM, sung in German and I wouldn't have it any other way with these folks. Light and dark, heavy and floaty, totally eclectic, poetic and wonderful. I was actually stunned when it ended and left wanting more more more!

So as you can see there's plenty of good stuff on this Alfa-Matrix comp, and it can be yours for absolutely free- with a purchase of one of their physical products from the Alfa-Matrix store (CD, DVD or vinyl). Or, you can listen to it streaming from their Bandcamp site for free! If you'd prefer a digital copy, you can get that there as well for about 9 Euros. Go buy something- support the label, support the band, support the music!
Artist: Erik Friedlander - Black Phoebe
Title: Rings
Format: CD
Label: Skipstone Records
Rated: *****
I already quoted this amazing project by New York-based accomplished and talented cellist Erik Friedlander, while introducing "Nothing On Earth," Erik's soundtrack for the expedition in Greenland by Mick Abrams and Murray Fredericks. A particular cinematic nuance is listenable in the sound he developed together with Japenese talented musicians Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Shoko Nagai (piano, accordion, and electronics) as listeners can readily perceive in some tracks of this newly assembled album, which look like portraits such as the cheeky tango they crafted on the opener "The Seducer", the gentle gipsy riding on "The Risky Business" and the exciting "Flycatcher" or the almost grotesque chamber music scherzo of "A Single Eye", but it's not the main feature. The stylistic adhesive cementing the twelve lovely tracks they recorded in "Rings" is the way the trio build the loop-based composition approach by Erik in each single song, who doesn't sound repetitive at all, due to the varieties of music styles by which Satoshi and Shoko implant during their sonic landscaping. Don't expect anything really super revolutionary, but just some well crafted good music by three brilliantly peppy musicians (not a small thing nowadays). In my opinion, the better way to appreciate this feature is focusing on the repetition on strings by Erik and almost unselfconsciously sink the delicate piano-driven melodies and the likewise sensitive or pleasantly faster tapping on percussions in between vibrant or lazier moments, that could let you imagine Black Phebe were aimed to give a sound to an interstate between fiction and reality for secret admirers of daydreaming, who keep having a head on its shoulders.
Artist: Psy'Aviah (@)
Title: Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Alfa-Matrix (@)
Rated: *****
The more I review here on Chain D.L.K. the less I find myself aware of many worthy music projects I've never heard (or heard of) before even though some have been around for years and years. Not a bad thing though; I find myself in a constant state of "new discovery". Such is the case with Psy'Aviah. I had my doubts when I received the package- a
hand-colored and lettered envelope containing a USB drive attached to a joker playing card. My fear was that this was going to be "art school amateur". That was defintely not the case though. On the drive was everything I needed- all of the contact, photo and audio files, and more. Unfortunately some of the audio files were corrupted, but after emailing Yves he was kind enough to provide an alternate method so I could do this review.

Yves Schlepe, from Belgium is the mastermind behind Psy'Aviah, and 'Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars' is the 7th album by Psy'Aviah, and sort of a "magic number" in its ouevre. Faithful readers of Chain D.L.K. may even know a good deal more than I do about Psy'Aviah (previous releases have been reviewed here), but a condensed background is that the project started in 1999, released the first album ('Creationism') in 2007, also EPs, mini-albums, compilation contributions and remixes along the way, as well as being very active live on the Euro club and festival scene. Over a number of albums Psy'Aviah has a proclivity of
employing guest vocalists, and very good ones at that. On this outing you will find Kyoko Baertsoen (ex-Hooverphonic, Lunascape); Roeland van der Velde (Model Depose); David Chamberlin (Entrzelle); Mari Kattman; Bernard Feron (Med, Combat Voice); Ellia Bisker (Sweet Soubrette); Pieter Van Vaerenbergh (Metafuzz, Zelon); Andrew Galucki; Alvin River;
Fallon Nieves; Addie Nicole (Halocine); Miss FD, and Diana S. The songs are as varied and eclectic an assortment as the vocalists within the genre, which is a veritable smogasbord of electronica.

Beginning with the intro, title track "Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars", a female voice-over gives the impression of Enigma in space. "Alcubierre Drive" which follows (with Kyoko on vocals) is a slinky, sultry bit of electronica steeped in trip hop rhythms and EBM basslines wrapped in spacey synth gauze. "Face to Face" could be an instant club hit with
Roeland's superb vocals and a killer hook. Dialing it back a notch, David's soulful voice on "Looking Back" expresses a bit of regret on this introspective number, yet still with a beat. What we learn from "Lessons of the Past" is that Mari Kattman is a vocalist to be reckoned with. No surprise that Yves chose to work with her again. The song is a good moody one too. 'From Another World' (Bernard on vocals) is a neat, medium-paced future pop classic. The anthesis of "Looking Back" is "Never Look Back" and Ellia's vocals are just right for this cool bit of pop electronica, and the music video for it is pretty cool too, in a still-life kind of way. "Opia" is a ballad (sans beat) that tugs at the heartstrings with Pieter on vocals. Well done, but not my kind of thing really. Nothing frozen about "Frozen" with hot vocals by Andrew on this nifty, catchy electropop number. Promising singer/songwriter Alvin River (from Italy) takes the lead on "Liberosis", stepping out of his acoustic element for this heavy dance track guaranteed to get 'em moving in the clubs. The singers take a break in the instrumental "Peace Paradox" but Yves can't resist filling in the gap with some appropriate dialogue samples. Another good club-friendly track. The next number is "Not What I Expected," literally. It's a sardonic electro stomper spoke-sung by Fallon sure to become a fave in dark music dance clubs. (Sort of goes back to Psy'Aviah's roots.) Addie's stellar vocals push "Stronger" over the top to be another potential dance club megahit. Are you ready to take a little "Wild Ride" with Miss FD? It's like Nine Inch Nail remixing Curve. Way cool! It all winds down ethereally with spoken word courtesy of Diana (who likley was the voice on the title track). A beautiful ending to a stellar album. But wait, we're not done yet.

The deluxe package also contains a second CD, the remix album! Remixers include Etasonic, Alex Dalliance, Skyshifter, People Theatre, Liquid Divine, Cutoff:Divine, VV303, rool, KONER, Cyborgdrive, Girlflesh, Implant and Amarta Project. If you're a regular reader of my
reviews, then you know I'm not big on remixes, but there are some interesting ones here over fourteen tracks of eight of the original album's songs. Don't know why "Wild Ride" got three remixes and "Liberosis" didn't get any, but...whatever. "Opia" gets a nice boost from Liquid Divine, and with the rhythmic backing, Pieter voice reminds me a bit of the Cruxshadow's Rogue. I especially enjoyed Implant's quirky industrial synth-heavy remix of "Not What I Expected", but not Girlflesh's clunky minimalist remix of "Wild Ride". The one outstanding remix of that track goes to Amarta Project. A bit old school in a pop-happy way, but welcome.

'Seven Sorrows, Seven Stars' is a real contender for album of the year. Yves' synthwork and production is stellar, and the album flows very well through its peaks and valleys. With such an array of talented vocalists and great writing, there is never a dull moment. The total package isn't cheap - 18 Euros or $20.00 U.S., but worth it for those that want the full experience. If want to skip the remixes, it will only set you back $13.50. Right now it's in pre-order as the release date isn't until April 15, plenty of time to set aside the cash, unless that's your doom-date for the I.R.S.
Artist: Konstantin Sukhan/Yury Favorin/Alexey Sysoev
Title: It Don't Mean a Thing
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
The mixing board of Alexey Sysoev has no input, but its hissing white noise sounds like a fog which gradually submerge the hits on piano's strings and board by Yury Favorin and the strangled sound that got emitted by Konstantin Sukhan's trumpet, two instruments which are closer to somehow phantasmagorical entities in the rising magnetic saturation of seemingly empty noises or I could rather match them to dangerously radioactive objects, whose radioactivity got measured by the noises coming from the mixer in the first part of this release. The second part got ignited by the ringing noise of a sort of broken intercom, where this skilled sound artists implanted a set of almost disturbing interferences, a sort of metallic chewing and locking that got supposedly derived from piano elements, a wheezing tone of trumpet and occasional hits on piano keys by rendering an electrically charged cloud, which gets more and more evanescent, but the peak of compression got reached on the third and last part of this output, where the three sonic entities seem to mirror the noises of invisible bugs in a nocturnal urban scape. Anyway don't try to look for a meaning of what these guys made while Maxim Khaikin recorded their sessions in Moscow (it dates back the 1st of July 2014), as It Do(es)n't Mean a Thing and this kind of intellectual honesty can only be appreciated.
Artist: It's A Synth (@)
Title: Curiosity
Format: CD
Label: Target Records (@)
Rated: *****
It seems as though there's been a lot of synthpop coming out of Scandinavia lately, so it's not surprising to find that It's A Synth is from Copenhagen, Denmark. They're a duo consisting of Andreas Fog-Petersen -what else but synths! and Casper Clemmensen - vocals. While this isn't their first foray into music, 'Curiosity' is their first official release, and WOW!, is it ever a doozy. Right from the get-go these guys draw you in with "Bring It On," a medium slow neo-psychedelic synth stew that latches on to your psyche and won't let go. "...I will always find a way to get to you and numb your senses, Feeling so underrated, they..never will speak the's underestimated...yeah, they all dismiss you..." It's a bit dark, but not typical of this album. Casper's vocals are perfect for this kind of thing. "Endless Endeavor" peps it up for the dancefloor and Casper employs a little vocoder assist for this tune. Now the pop portion of this synth band kicks into high gear and drills directly into that happy portion of your brain and implants their infectious hooks. Unless you really hate synthpop, they've got you. And so it continues with the anthemic future-poppy "Almost". I can picture a huge crowd waving their hands in unison in time with the beat. These guys have lucked on to the magic formula that most synthpop bands strive for, namely to create music that you just can't get out of your head. And the weird thing is, it's so bloody simple. Fog-Petersen's synthwork is very good, but not ground-breaking. (Is there any more ground to break in this genre?) Clemmensen has the knack for writing melodies that are uber-appealing. "The Last Cell" isn't the greatest track on the album, but lots of synthpop bands would be satisfied to come up with something as good as this. Even when the band doesn't seem to be trying hard, as on "Pen to Paper", where the hook has only the words "there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason, there is a reason...ahhhh" it will melodically bubble up in your brain long after you've heard the song. I thought after this they might be spent, but no; wrong on that account. Blam, blam...two more infectious tracks - "Somehow" and "Piece of Me". After that "Steps" attemps the same formula, but isn't as compelling as anything that preceded it. "Moving" is much better with an old-school psychedelic chorus - "How will I find you?" repeated anon. The last track, "Spirit" is a bit heavy-handed with it's pounding staccato beats and really only serves to sum things up in a grand finale. As far as tunesmithing goes, It's A Synth makes bands on the order of Fischerspooner sound lame, and that's no small feat. I have heard the future of synthpop, and definitely, It's A Synth.
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