Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Powder In Space
Format: CD + Download
Label: Beats In Space
It’s unusual to get sent DJ-mixed compilation albums here. Focussing on art music, experimental sound and the more thoughtful and esoteric sides of noise normally means a purist approach to the integrity of the work, so an 18-track mix of different artist’s work blended together into one 74-minute mix is something of a novelty. But, like some of the best mixed compilation albums of the past, the result, compiled by Momoko Goto a.k.a. Powder, is a utterly coherent sonic journey that definitely stands up as a worthy piece of art in its own right.

Predominantly this is feather-light electronic house music, that borders variously on chill-out, semi-ambient and lounge but carefully so, and without ever delving into corny territory.

The opening tracks are especially mellow, bordering on full ambient, with elements that bring back strong and pleasant memories of the 90’s, both in tone and sonic quality. This is bookended well with the latter sections too, with the smooth leisurely hum of Lord Of The Isles’ “Your Smile” taking it down multiple notches, before a quite 80’s-ish finale in Cos/Mes’s “Forever”.

Inbetween those points, once it gets going, the remix of Daphne’s “When You Love Someone” epitomises the sunkissed dancing-on-the-beach vibe that dominates the central section. Vedagor’s “Untitled II” utilises the ubiquitous and overused ‘deep spoken word vocal talking about house music’ technique for engagement, a perhaps slightly unwelcome narrative interruption to what’s mostly a very smooth instrumental journey. A sense of bright optimism pervades, with Powder’s own track “Gift” and Vertigo Inc’s “The Water Margin” exuding unashamed feel-good vibes.

There are slightly quirkier moments here too, but nothing to shake you off your stride. Tiago’s “Roy Brooks” works around an infectious jazz loop. K-Line’s “Saxopetu” is a squelchy number with a bouncy acid bassline and a keyboard-choir-sound melody that borders on daft, with Jules Etienne’s “Cuban Omelette” is not as silly as its title suggests, with its decidedly retro light techno vibe.

It’s pitched in high artistic terms as an exploration of “the properties of time” and “genre, movement, schedule, and societal convention to rebel”, and while I’m not wholly convinced that its credentials would hold up to excessive scholarly scrutiny, nevertheless the bottom line is that this is a great mix. Relaxing, detailed, well-pitched and positive, it’s a release I’ll be returning to for pleasure for sure.
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Artist: Genetic Transmission (@)
Title: Spójrzcie Пожалуйста, Jakie Piękne Macie Gęby
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
This is another chapter of the reissue plan of Genetic Transmission's albums by Zoharum and perhaps this is from the most adventurous part of Tomasz Twardawa's discography. According to the liner notes this is the first time that a computer has been used in the sound preparation and this could be heard as in many moments there's a remarkable sound nuance and, unusually, there's a certain dada humor in the album title, and in the cover, instead of the more serious industrial oriented framework of the other releases.
This release is opened by "Track 1" (by the way, all the track are untitled) which slowly evolves from a quiets first part based on a drone to a second one which uses loops and samples tied by a mechanical rhythmic structure. "Track 2" reveals the author's ability to use noise in a creative way rather than to hurt the listener. "Track 3" starts as a follow up of the previous track and evolve in a rather dada piece which is a prelude to the juxtapositions of "Track 4" with several montage's virtuosities. "Track 5" alternates noisy moments to quieter ones. "Track 6" proceeds by accumulation from a low frequency pulse to a complex, and evocative, soundscape based on samples or more precisely foley sounds. "Track 7" is a rather complex cut-up with noisy intermissions.
This release is practically a single opus in seven movements, rather than a collection of tracks, as there are many similarities between the tracks that create a self referentiality which is the sign that there's a precise concept behind this release. An obscure gem from the past.
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Artist: Hunter Complex (@)
Title: Open Sea
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Death Waltz Originals (@)
Rated: *****
How I came by this artist/album: A number of small labels email me promo material/artist news blurbs, etc., many of which don't even apply to the Chain D.L.K. audience/music genres, and I find myself deleting a good chunk of them. This one email I got from Lars and Death Waltz though was kind of intriguing. "The Long awaited new LP, Open Sea by Dutch artist Hunter Complex will be released on January 23 2019 on Death Waltz Originals, sublabel of Mondo Records and Death Waltz Recording Company. The LP was mastered by James Plotkin; the stunning artwork was created by Eric Adrian Lee." Of course, there was more, talking about "supreme synth goodness" and "a mix of warm analog and bright digital synths at a layer of complexity that most records in this genre can't manage to achieve." Well, that was enough for me. I contacted Lars and asked him to send me a copy. He responded by saying one was already on the way, and lo and behold, it seemed to arrive instantly! I suppose getting the (limited) vinyl edition would have been asking too much, but the CDr sent had all the music of the album I needed for the review, so no complaints.

Prior to this I was unfamiliar with Lars Meijer and his Hunter Complex project, but I understand he's a pretty well-known figure in the Dutch electronica underground, so this comes with a good amount of cred. He's been releasing music since 1991, is a member of Living Ornaments and Psychon, and 'Open Sea' is the third album under his Hunter Complex moniker. He is also the co-owner of the Dutch label, Narrowminded. Sorry to say I haven't heard any of his previous releases, but it's what's spinning now that counts. My first reaction to 'Open Sea' is that it sounds like the kind of stuff my '80s synthpop band Chemistry Set was doing for fun and creativity between rehearsals for live performances. We had a bunch of synthesizers and dammit, we were gonna use 'em to make imaginary instrumental soundtracks to movies that never existed. (Hey, you never know when a real scoring opportunity might arise, although it never did.) Most of those tapes fell by the wayside and were lost to time and tide, but this album brought it all back home.

Being completely instrumental, 'Open Sea' is like a soundtrack to an 1980s B movie. Less like Blade Runner, Miami Vice and Terminator, more like Thief, Escape From New York, The Running Man, American Gigolo, or more obscure ones like Trancers or Xtro. 'Open Sea' is not indicative of any kind of horror score though; more bright and punchy rather than dark and gloomy. The synths employed sound like the lower end Roland, Jupiter and Juno, Oberheim, Yamaha DX7 and Korg Poly 61 rather than the higher end PPG Wave, Synclaviers and Fairlights, which is fine by me. Lots of layering on the pads, generous use of sequencers and arpeggiators, plus those drum machine sounds that so defined 1980s music.

My one misgiving about this is the lack of defined melody. It is possible that was intentional, not attaching a specific melody to these pieces in order to evoke an overall feeling. I think that puts this album dangerously close to Stock Music Library terrain (you know, the generic tunes that are often royalty-free used in low-budget radio commercials and self-produced documentaries) but it is way better done than most of the music I've heard in that category. Still, it seems as though much more could have been done with this without sacrificing its stylized sound, perhaps veering off in more playful directions instead of treading predictable pathways.(Many of the musical tropes employed on 'Open Sea' are those you've heard many times before.) The fact that the album is a limited released on vinyl makes it more appealing for a physical copy than if it were just in CD format. It is already sold out in Europe, and likely the only reason it hasn't sold out in the U.S. is lack of recognition and publicity with American audiences. Get your copy before it disappears.
Artist: Institution D.O.L.
Title: Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World
Format: CD
Label: TORM Ent
Rated: *****
Institution D.O.L. are back. If you love power electronics/death industrial and all that, you know what I’m talking about. Institution D.O.L. is the project of Barbie B. & Meta Dolor. The album is called “Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World” and it is definitely an album that will become very important - eventually a classic - in extreme music. Institution D.O.L. look as passionate as musicians exploring a new type of music, but they have also 20 years of experience, so the result is just perfect - experience and passion. The album has been recorded in 3 different countries over 3 years, so you may get also an understanding of the character traits of the musicians involved - patience is what can transform good music into great music.
The tracks are elegant and, from a point of view, simple. I do not mean simple as simplistic, but simple in the sense that Institution D.O.L. does not just put together as many sounds as possible just to create unbearable noise - they are no noise tourists.
A few songs are more ‘traditional’ in the sense of power electronics typical of Genocide Organ, Grey Wolves, or similar acts. I have in mind songs such as “We are the black ones”, which is a noise wall standing in the background and generated with samples but also expert use of synthesizers, complemented with a voice shifting between spoken words and screams. Another example is “You are all lost”, which plays smartly with synths parameters to create a feeling of discomfort - the excellent vocal performance completes the song (sometimes screaming, sometimes growling, sometimes talking). “In dust and death” is a little bit different - a very acid synth create a sort of martial rhythm complemented by a very angry voice - noise and sounds of a crowd in the background.
But other songs are different - “Invocation”, Abschlachtung”, and the closing song are what Institution D.O.L. define a sort of ‘deathscape’. They have elements of the other songs, but they also create a dark and dense atmosphere by adding laments, pianos, nice and elegant pads, organs. The last song is particularly cool. The beginning is a walk towards the perfection of death industrial, but suddenly, an elegant pad enters softening the tense (and dense) atmosphere. A delicate melody is complemented by an angry and distorted voice. But it’s not over, since in the middle of this very long song (12 minutes or so), there is also space for a delicate piano, playing a melody that, after you have experienced the entire album, is really an invitation to vanish and die.
The choice of the order of the songs is also smart - you do not have the power electronics first, and then the more ‘relaxed’ songs (or viceversa). You have a mix. By listening to this album, you shift between states of fear, fury, and mystery. And that is exactly what you should expect from genuine extreme music.
To sum up, the year 2019 has started in the right way for the fans of extreme industrial music.
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Artist: Marlon Hoffstadt
Title: Simple Communication
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midnight Themes
Marlon Hoffstadt continues to be prolific, with this sixth release in the Midnight Themes series coming fairly hot on the heels of the previous ones. It’s a reliable and steady output that’s also predictable, for better or worse- in this case, perhaps the better, as it’s a trustworthy three-pack of semi-deep house that you can rely on not to surprise you.

There are shades of acid at times, strongly reminiscent of old Josh Wink tracks, including one that adds an extra element into the second half of “Take A Moment” which serves as a good substitute for any other musical progression that’s lacking. Second A-side track “Action And Reaction” is a shade harder, with tougher kicks and assured use of effects to bounce simple synth pads around. For people of a certain age the title “Simple Communication” can’t help but scan with the near-identical metre as Slam’s “Positive Education”, a release that these tracks aren’t completely unlike, save for the iconic vocal of course.

The B-side is devoted to “Open Focus” which gives us the best of both worlds, an 11-minute journey that certainly pays tribute to the softer side of classic acid house with its steady claps and slowly unpeeling 303 noises, but which reminds us that these are elements of dance music that somehow never end up sounding old, or which nostalgia will never let us recognise as old. The eleven minute voyage is very expertly mapped out to keep things interesting with a fairly minimal set of ingredients.

Another ‘safe pair of hands’ release from an artist whose fairly frequent appearances in my inbox are always welcome.
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