Music Reviews

Artist: Nihil Impvlse (@)
Title: Teil II - Stasis
Format: CD
Label: Interitvs Nvmen (@)
Rated: *****
This release is the second of three aktions, term that reveals the influence of this project, aiming to describe the mechanism which close mankind in a psychological invisible prison. While his predecessor, "Katabasis", was a long track mostly relying on atmosphere created with noise and samples. This is a more fragmented release and has a more polished sound.
The first track of this release, "Sacrament", is marked by grave strings and sparse beats of the bell. "Psychik Plague" features spoken words introducing a second part based on noises introducing the sonic assault of "Ek-stasis" quietly ending in the evocative "A Prison Within A Prison" which, after an introduction based on voices and a sharp drone evolves in a sonic depiction of a war. "Zeitgeist Pentothal" creates his tension hinting a crescendo that never happens. "Krankheitsfelder" is an apparently static track based on imperceptible variations of the background. "Ordeal Of Awareness" closes this release with distorted voice created a sort of clever power electronics. The classical samples of the end hint at the third part of this project.
This release has an undeniable due to certain black industrial but has a personal interpretation of it and a couples of ideas which makes this release a good pick for fans of the genre. However it's something for champagne tastes.
Artist: The Pitch & Splitter Orchester
Title: Frozen Orchestra (Splitter)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Mikroton
Splitter Orchester’s latest ‘collaboration’ is a slight over-statement since three of the four members of The Pitch are Splitter Orchester members already so it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a Splitter Orchester release.

And what it is, is an exactly 60-minute single piece of slow arhythmic ambience, tone, drone performed by 23 performers predominantly on traditional instruments (multiple clarinets, cello, tuba, piano, guitar and more) but with the prominent use of oscillators, electronics and live tape-to-tape manipulation that gives us a genuine hybrid of modern experimental orchestral work. Performers play supremely long sustained notes and chords that meander in and out in randomised waves and the evolution is formed from the changes in layer combination.

Around a third of the way through some of the guitar plucking borders on the percussive, as do a handful of piano notes in the final third, but these are subtle exceptions to an otherwise very consistently enveloped and ebbing performance where chance, of which there is plenty, is so gradual and morphic that you aren’t even conscious that it is happening. The planning feels exemplary, from the opening slow builds to the warmer more resolution-laden quiet ending.

It’s bold and striking and I wish I were able to see it performed live, where I’m sure the mesmeric power of it would increase. It’s not in itself afforded of many new ideas, but that’s not a criticism- an object doesn’t have to have originality to be beautiful, and that’s what this piece really is, albeit in that dark and unsettling way that adds the extra layer of intrigue that can sometimes be the icing on the cake.
Artist: Hackedapicciotto
Title: Joy
Format: CD + Download
Label: Potomak
For the second time, Hackedepicciotto have taken a break from their edgier dark drone works to (as requested by many fans apparently) produce something much mellower, more meditative and more suited to yoga, something which Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto now practice regularly. And sure enough, this is truly mellow material.

There’s a diversity in sound in here. After opening “The Beckoning” suggests that it will be an hour of ambient relaxation music cliché- didgeridoo-style noises, metallic chimes and tiny cymbals, throat singing, and birdsong all feature at some point across this release- the more distinctive tones begin with “The Storm”, a picturesque warm ebbing drone which is, to be honest, somewhat spoilt by the corny slow poetric reading above telling us that “kindness is love”, “love will bring wisdom” and so on, before “Let There Be Joy” adopts a more acoustic-ballad approach with breathy vocal melodies. Fourth track “Sisters”, with its gentle orchestral melody running with careful minimalism over sitar-like rumbling notes, is a highlight.

After this point the variation settles down somewhat as we approach a second half built around the same elements as the first and containing fewer surprises.

For my personal tastes, the poem elements talking about harmony and inner strength are a weak point, a cliché that grates against rather than complimenting the gentle musical elements underneath- but it is used sparingly so it’s not as invasive as it might have been. Beyond that, it’s a warm and smooth if unsurprising collection of warm and warm-ish ambiences and drones that certainly seems well-geared towards mesmerism and the pursuit of mellow.
Artist: Ben Bertrand
Title: NGC 1999
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Les Albums Claus
Belgian bass clarinetist Ben Bertrand’s debut album is comprised of 31 minutes of melding some pure clarinet work with electronic processing, looping and drone effects. A mixture of positive and more melancholic melodic meandering drifts over long sustained minimalist tones. Some pitch up-shifting generates some glittery higher tones as well, giving a nice well-rounded balance.

In opener “Orion Molecular Cloud”, the drone layer is processed in such a way that it sounds far more like a didgeridoo than a clarinet- for better or worse, depending on your opinion of didgeridoos. Though it makes claim to reference a variety of ethnic styles, that’s probably about as ethnic as it really gets, frankly sounding quite Western and middle-class otherwise- not intending that as a disservice of course.

There’s a perky jauntiness to “V380 Orionis” that’s quite refreshing, before “Malkauns On Kitt Peak” adopts a more familiar, earnest, chin-stroking modern classical grimness. The two approaches mix together on “Sanctus Hubble”, with its quite bouncy echo-laden staccato rhythm parts meeting the cold-jazz-like clarinet work.

“Post Scriptum to Valentina Terechkova” (the Russian cosmonaut) introduces some whispered vocals over quite a barren and electronic soundscape where the clarinet often feels completely subsumed, as such feeling like the piece that most wholly steps into the album’s space theme.

There’s an assured simplicity to it all that certainly justifies references to Steve Reich. It perhaps falls between two stools somewhat, neither long and truly minimalist enough to reach that feeling of emotional transcendence, but it’s a very appealing and polished- albeit simply too short- bit of work.
Artist: Otzepenevshiye
Title: Razryv Svyazi
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Zhelezobeton (@)
Rated: *****
'Razryv Svyazi' is Otzepenevshiye's first major release in the 11 years of the band's existence. This industrial death/doom/sludge metal outfit was originally formed in 2006 by Evgeniy Voronovskiy (Cisfinitum), Dimitriy Zubov (Hypnoz, Zub off Sex Shop), and Ivan Napreenko (Sal Solaris, 016), but after some time transformed into the duo of Ivan and Arnold_pR (Reutoff, Myrrman). Otzepenevshiye have had tracks on numerous compilations previously, but their only full-length album ('For A Knife') was in collaboration with the band, Vir. Now here they are alone (for the most part) in all their noise-infected walls & slabs of distorted guitar glory. On the second CD features collaborations with the bands Circle of Unexisted, and Vir, and also remakes of compositions by Banda Chetyryokh and Theregothon. If all this sounds obscure to you, you are not alone; you'd have to have a familiarity with the Russian underground doom metal scene to really know any of these names, but that's what I'm here for. The first thing you need to know about the music of Otzepenevshiye is that it's (mostly) instrumental. Any vocals/voices used in the music seem to be strictly incidental or ephemeral, save for a couple of tracks on CD 2 but we'll get to that later. The second thing you need to know is that the title, 'Razryv Svyazi,' means 'Disconnection,' if that's in any way helpful. Some of this might even be described as "doomgaze" as there is a strong reliance on atmosphere even over content and form in some cases. There are only five tracks on the first CD (still 71 minutes) but they're all rather long, ranging from a little over 9 minutes to a little over 23 minutes each. It starts out innocuously enough with some drone and slow paced doom drums, but when the squalling atmospherics and eventual mass of distorto-guitar and other noise-sonics kicks in, you'll feel you're on Jupiter with all its gravity bearing down on you. It's pretty oppressive all the way through. The second track begins with some ostinado bass guitar that moves into a sludgy, heavy groove that just seems endlessly endless. (Yep, this is the 23 minute track.) To be perfectly honest, the first CD was a bit hard to take- a depressingly slow crawl through a bleak, nightmarish landscape eternally. Great walls of guitar noise block your path at every turn as the doom drums beat you into submission. Some people are really going to love this though as I know there's market out there for this kind of music, especially when it's as well done as this is. There is some variety in form and content on the first CD but not nearly as much as on the 2nd CD. CD 2 has more tracks and of shorter duration (approximately 8-13 minutes each), also with more sonic variety and form. I noticed more industrial aspects on the 2nd CD as well as ambiences. Some songs go through a number of radical changes before they play out which adds some spice and keeps things from getting dull. There's also more melodic content in places. Overall I liked the drum-work/rhythms better on the second CD as well. Even the atmospherics seemed more refined than on the first CD. In fact, there are parts that are industrial drone dark ambient, and I love that kind of stuff! There are two tracks with vocals - (Title in Russian I can't really duplicate) where a voice just barely above a whisper recites the barely melodic melody, and "The Black" where the vocals are sort of screamed in the background. For me, the former was preferable to the latter, but whatever, it all works. While most of this is not my prime kind of music, I'd recommend it to those who crave industrial death/doom/sludge metal; it's worth seeking out. Comes in a neat glossy double slipcase, and my copy had 3 interestingly gloomy postcards, one with photos of the band members who look unsurprisingly wretched.
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