Music Reviews



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Artist: Christopher Chaplin
Title: Paradise Lost
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Fabrique Records
Christopher Chaplin’s second album is a truly curious beast, and probably the oddest setting of John Milton’s poem that you’ll have ever heard.

As the artwork suggests this is a properly theatrical work, merging sparse bits of English-language opera singing (Nathan Vale on the first and last tracks), beat poetry (Leslie Winer on the second track), sporadic and often very ominous-sounding string and woodwind orchestrations with some experimental percussive performance elements and an occasional smattering of modern electronica, drones and synth twiddling.

Sometimes meandering into abstract soundscaping, and at other times feeling more like an overtly staged performance piece, it seems to revel in the defiance of expectations on each level- including lyrically, being difficult to follow and inviting you to try and interpret that which may not actually be interpretable.

Personally I am more intrigued by the Nathan Vale-featuring “I Dread”, which has a greater sense of dynamic, than the sultry, smoky squidginess of Leslie Winer’s rambling lines on “Dave The Shoe”, on the grounds that the latter feels less distinctive. The shorter final operatic piece “Of This New World” feels somehow more conventionally vocally, but the offset of plaintive melancholic tenor singing against glitchy electronics is still a winning combination.

Although this work feels like it ought to make more sense in a live performance setting than on an album, it’s a properly unusual work that commands attention.
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Artist: Kate NV
Title: ДЛЯ FOR
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl.
All the tracks on Kate NV’s second album have three-letter English titles and Cyrillic equivalents, which it seems I can’t reproduce on this website, so with my apologies the track titles will only be referenced in English.

Moscow-based NV has offered up ten extremely quirky bits of mostly-instrumental abstract synthpop noodling. Playful keyboard-sample melodies dance childishly through opening track “EAR”. The melodic primitivism is most notable on “HOW”, which really feels like it ought to be the underscore for a pre-school cartoon. Gentle marimba- and glockenspiel-like synth tones play gentle pleasant patterns, around which slightly more ‘grown-up’ electronica noises- sine wave pads and chords- lilt and meander. “YOU” is a more rounded example, featuring spoken-word vocals and delicate sonics that end up sounding almost Japanese.

The first half of the album was written in the Spring, the latter half in the Autumn, and while the change between the two isn’t as extreme as the press release may suggest, there’s a switch to more muted tones and slightly odder and more sombre melodic noises. The idiosyncratic sine-wave-noodling on “BUG” is nicely measured and expressive, and “SEE” is enjoyably mesmeric. The jazzy, thoughtful Rhodes keys of final track “WHO” are a pleasant surprise and wrap the whole work up like a child being wrapped in a warm blanket.

With a genuinely unique character, but perhaps just a little too childish for some tastes, “FOR” is an intriguing, small-sounding album that’s really rather endearing.
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Artist: Zanti
Title: Broken Hearted City
Format: CD
Label: Downwards Records
Rated: *****
When I received the Zanti CD I didn’t know what to expect from the music composed by two guys who were really famous in the 80s and which are still rockin’. Anni Hogan played with Marc Almond, being part of the Mambas, La Magia and The Willing sinners and in the years did several solo records where her piano was the main instrument. Three years ago, I reviewed „Millions Of The Mouthless Dead“, album she did with Attrition’s Martin Bowes where they composed an imaginary soundtrack that was focused on the dramas of the WWI. The album before that, „Mountain“, also was a particular one: it was a CD/DVD where she performed on her piano some tunes, Itchy Ear manipulated them on pre-production and then Robert Strachan re-imagined and remixed. The other guy of the Zanti duo is Derek Forbes. He played bass guitar with Simple Minds from day one until 1985 and again in the album „Neapolis“. After Simple Minds he joined Propaganda and from 2012 he’s playing bass with Big Country. Well, after listening to the eight tracks of „Broken Hearted City“, I can say that I’m amazed. Every song is a potential single. When they sing solo or duetting, they are able to create a magical atmosphere where you can feel how much of themselves they put into these songs. The opening „Scream Machine“ is a powerful tune where Derek’s voice is upfront. The surprise is that he has a really good voice and he's a good performer too. On This tune, guitar and rhythmical loops form a psychedelic vortex where bass and piano are like brushes which enrich a rough canvas. „Lonesome“ is a perfect song where the dualism of the couple create a really nice contrast. When Derek is singing we have light distorted riffs and his voice which is almost recitate. When is Anni’s turn, the song is turning into a ballad where a trumpet, strings, acoustic guitar and the piano soften the atmosphere. Really a great effect. „Will You Be Mine“ has a great melody, so 80s but the arrangement is modern, with a distorted bass going in and out and orchestral openings where the piano and the strings change everything. With „Head Sounds“ I couldn’t believe my ears… the bass sounds like „Theme From Great Cities“, from the „Sister Feelings Call“ album but this time all the other sounds are different, even if the atmosphere can recall that jewel recorded in 1981. „Head Sounds“ starts with a melody that recalled me Great Britain’s folk songs but in the background Derek’s vocals is treated recalling me the sound of a didgeridoo. Distorted guitars in the background, spare piano chords and Anni’s vocals make of this a song that you will want to listen again as soon as it’s over. “Planet Sweet“ recalled me Marc Almond’s songs of the „Enchanted“/„Tenement Symphony“ era and it’s really nice. „Broken Hearted City“ is a piano ballad so touching that Derenk’s vocals would be enough and you would be mesmerised anyway. „Paris Vortex“ is Anni’s moment. Into this one she’s a real diva. If this song would have been released back in 1985, it would be in the charts, you have my word! The piano, the strings, the robotic minimal rhythm are building the base of the track where her is singing a melody that will be stuck into your head for days, along with Derek’s simple chorus. „Universe Of Love“ closes the album with a sort of dreamy coda where all the other songs go to rest quietly until the next listening… and be sure, you’ll do many of them. Check it now! You won’t be disappointed!
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Artist: Sascha Funke
Title: Acatenango
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: You And Your Hippie Friends
This is a three-pack of measured-tempo instrumental house from established producer Sascha Funke (stalwart of BPitch Control, sometimes on Kompakt). It’s got a leisurely and soft approach, simple pure-sounding bass notes rolling gently and effortlessly over crisp lightweight beats. The melody lines are a little bit retro and synthwave, but pleasant and light.

Despite being called “Aggravate”, the opening track is more likely to soothe- steady one-note bass under sparse, quite jazzy synth melodies and stepping, panning percussive patterns. Title track “Acatenango” showcases a quirky rising flute melody that will be quite divisive, some people enjoying the novelty, other people finding its weirdness a little too arch and not quite pleasant enough. “Surumu” has a more driving attitude, driven by squeaky staccato synth sounds with a refreshing degree of bounce and an oddball ‘ahhh’ melody line, and ends up being my favourite track of the bunch as a result.

The quirkier aspects of it might prove to be either its unique selling point or a turn-off depending on the audience, but this is a hypnotic and elegant pack of deep house tunes with some twists.
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Artist: Ben Rath
Title: Anything Is Possible
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Sound In Silence
Manchester-based Ben Rath’s return to the Sound In Silence label is a confidently mellow serving of ambient electronica built from ebbing and flowing layers of gentle, very digital-sounding synth pads, warm drones, a handful of polite and neutered guitar tones and some seriously soft atmospherics.

This is soporific, lull-you-to-sleep material throughout, from the church-like reverb washes of “Flow Of Creation”, through the languid strumming of “Innate Value”, to the soft coloured noise of “All Part Of One”, to the melodic bell-tone chords of the title track that closes the album, these are all very familiar elements that you’ve heard before- but, like a comfort food recipe, there’s no harm in hearing them reassembled again with measured confidence.

It’s an ambient album that won’t blow your mind, but if you’re looking for an aural comfort blanket with a decent sheen, then this will fit the bill very nicely.
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