Music Reviews

Artist: Mount Shrine
Title: Winter Restlessness
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
Mount Shrine is a Brazilian project which releases an album which is presented by the label with descriptive words about a winter landscape and a journey to a place where someone can meditate. In other words, this is an ambient release where the focus of the composer is on the development of an atmosphere rather than on an evolution of the form.
The voices in the background that open "Winter Restlessness" introduce the listener towards an atmospheric and quiet ambient album where drones slowly evolve in a mid frequencies range so it's really close to classic ambient and the voice carries no real message but it's a way to let the music blend with the listener's environment. Even if it seems static at first sight, the sound nuances of "Moon's Distrust" constantly evolves. The crescendo of "The Silence Between Our Houses" is as predictable as evocative, so underlining the quality of the sound construction. "Foggy Deck", as its name suggests, alternates almost silents moments to droning ones. The field recordings of "Lifeless Indoors" creates an environment in which the listener find himself. "Exile" closes this release with a blurred drone which is gradually focused.
While it isn't adding anything new to a canonical form overtly in debt with the classic form of ambient, the quality of sound construction and the comprehension of the concept of this music ensures that a really enjoyable release is done. Recommended for fans of the genre.
Artist: M. Geddes Gengras
Title: Light Pipe
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Room40
M. Geddes Gengras’ tenth release is a gentle fusion of synthetic ambient textures and soft, superslow melodic synthwave pads worked into long, slow and calm sonic baths that you can luxuriate in. Sometimes, soft plucked guitar or guitar-like sounds amble over the top, washed in reverb and sustain, evoking images of wide open spaces with just the faintest twang of electronica-meets-Americana.

“Irwin” is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre’s “Waiting For Cousteau” (the track, rather than the whole album), bubbling along through a broad environment with a strong sense of wonder and very formless melody, while the album’s nearest orbit towards rhythm- manifested in subtle pulses and lower-pitched arpeggiating patterns- borders obliquely with the lighter side of soft techno, but with the emphasis on ‘soft’.

There’s a little bit of grit in certain pieces that differentiates these works from vanilla chill-out fare, for example the lo-fi atmospheric hiss that threads itself through “Cherise”, or the rumbling growls that open “Water Study” which, if you’ve fallen asleep listening to this, might nudge you slightly towards nightmare- but these elements are relatively few and far between.

Fans of Moby’s ambient works- particularly his more recent and indulgent sleep offerings- will find something worth wallowing in here, as will anyone willing or wanting to spend two and a half hours immersed in a warm and meditative fug that manages- just- to avoid most clichés and leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed- or asleep.
Artist: Keisuke Matsuno, Moritz Baumgärtner & Lars Graugaard
Title: Crush
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
For the second time, back in 2016, Danish avant-garde artist Lars Graugaard, German modern jazz drummer Moritz BaumgÄrtner and experimental e-guitarist Keisuke Matsuno met for a single day’s soundclashing and instrumental improvisation in a Berlin studio and here, just over two years later, is the output- fifty minutes of a relatively raw and spontaneous experimental fusion, split across five tracks with fairly different outlooks.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” is a haunted house affair full of sharp strings, thick reverbs, sinister approaching bass pulses and distant eerie rumbles, while the short “Grindle” is an vignette of electronics-led dark jazz, while “Blended Conurbation” more guitar-noodling orientation places it on the grittier side of prog rock.

Final and longest piece “Keep Something On” is more immersive, its own twenty-three minute ebb and flow which again skirts around prog rock but with glitching (that at times frankly sounds like a faulty CD-R read but probably isn’t) and some sporardic dives into deeper rumblier noise washes, before resolving into perhaps the most conventional structure of the set for a moody finale that seems to throw back to opener “Wheefing The Hoofer”.

It’s certainly an interesting collaboration, one that would certainly bear interesting creative fruit if nurtured long-term, but as it is, the somewhat raw edge to it perhaps doesn’t work in its favour, but it’s still a bold experimental statement.
Artist: Stromstad (@)
Title: New Devored Human
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Malignant Records (@)
Rated: *****
I know this has been out for a while, but it has come into my hands only recently (through no fault of anyone), and although my taste for noise-electronics has waned over the years I feel compelled to review it because I believe that it's an important work. Stromstad is a collaborative project between Jasse Tuukki and Toni MyöhÄnen of and Kristoffer Oustad. Oustad is known for work under his own name, and also as part of the Kristoffer Nyströms Orkester with Peter Nyström (Megaptera). If you're familiar with then you know their type of power electronics/death industrial music and already have a pretty good idea of what this album might sound like. Oustad brings his own flavor of dark ambient to the mix making this an expansive and intriguing outing that doesn't disappoint. Beginning with the harsh opener - "Inherent Resurrection," we get nastily processed, shouted vocal over an abrasive storm of (sometimes rythymic) electronics. It may sound like just another angry rant, but when you read the printed lyrics (and you will probably need them), it will begin to make sense. "...By the fragmentation and degeneration of the 'old world,' we stand on the very brink of oblivion. The beginning of the end has set in. The beginning of a new religious era. There must be a new heaven and a new earth. A new heart and a new soul. All new, a pure resurrection...." That’s some food for thought there. This is a much more spiritual work than a cursory listening would leave one to believe, and that's amplified by Oustad's droning dark ambient strings on "Nattsvermer" and "Kosto," where stark minimalism is the order of the day. The 8 tracks on this album are short (the longest being 6:38, and the whole being a compact 36 minutes) for this genre which is often prone to lengthy excess, giving it a modicum of commercial appeal. Most of the more abrasive tracks have similarly inclined vocals ( Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved provides vocals on "Reluctant Traveler"), and I suppose in this kind of environment anything other than that would be inappropriate. But the words are poetic, the poetry of the diseased, displaced and disenfranchised. In other words, a major portion of humanity as they will likely appear in the not too far off post-apocalyptic future. Rhythms, where present, are of course industrial-mechanical but not tribal, so there is no sense of community, just the thrumming of process. Yet this is the best course for the delivery of the artists' vision. 'New Devoted Human' is effective, compelling, and thought-provoking, far more than I thought this kind of music was capable of.
Artist: Escupemetralla
Title: Poison of Dead Sun in Your Brain Slowly Fading
Format: CD + Download
Label: Novak Records (@)
Rated: *****
The myth behind the music: "Escupemetralla are the result of a series of retro-transmissions to be carried out in the mid-twenty-first century at the "Thorne's Cone Light Reversion Laboratory for Children", Los Alamos, Texas (Federal States of Mexico and Puerto Rico). In a certain way, Escupemetralla are just virtual entities that will actually exist in several years' time. Escupemetralla means "Spitshrapnel" in Spanish." The musicians behind the myth: "Escupemetralla is a duo that produces experimental electronic sound, formed in 1987 in Barcelona. There is some confusion about their members, who sometimes call themselves Muhammad and Muhammad. The name of the duo (Spitshrapnel in Spanish) comes from an anarchist song from the 1930s ("Throw the bomb which spits shrapnel..."). They define their sound as 'obscure electronics,' 'war ambient,' and 'twisted symphonic music,' encompassing noise, industrial music, futuristic experimentation, plagiarism and appropriationism. Their productions were published in the 1980s and 1990s mainly as cassette tapes by Clonaciones Petunio. Between 1998 and 2016 they remained inactive but resumed their activity in 2016."

Okay, so that's some intriguing background never having heard (or heard of) this outfit before, so do they sound as strange as all that might lead you to believe? Well, yes; sort of. In a sense these guys are not markedly different than Zoviet France, producing industrial electronic soundscapes and collages relying heavily on electronics, looping and samples. I recall doing a lot of this kind of thing myself in the 1990s, although I never released any of it at the time (thinking there wasn't much audience interest in it), although now I wish I had. The music on 'Poison of Dead Sun in Your Brain Slowly Fading' is divided into two sections: Transcendent Side and Political Side. The Transcendent Side begins with a cacophony of voices ("Hikuri Neirra") fading into a jittery electronic rhythm that evolves into a chaotic maelstrom replete with air raid sirens and screeching electro-screams. The monotonous sample & holdish looping electro-rhythm of "Mutaciones Des Does Magnetofones" morphs over time with other additional sonic effluvia. "Echafaud Temporel Spectral" features foreign dialogue amid industrial ambient and electronic background with a creepy surrealistic bent to it. Title track "Poison of Dead Sun" features LFO driven slowly ascending ring-modulated electronics and shades of souls possibly rising from the dead moaning in the aether. This is cinematic dark ambient at its finest, with ghostly bellish tones, dramatic heavy percvussion hits, swirling atmospheres and heavily reverbed ambience all the way round. I could imagine Universal Studios using this for one of its Halloween Horror Houses.

On to the Political Side, which begins with "Presidente Basura" (President Trash), a re-imagining of Trump's inauguration. Really didn't need that; we've got enough of the Cheeto-in-Chief to go around for a lifetime. "Andalusia, Alabama" features lots of falling abrasive oscillations before the voices come in. Dialogue samples of some kind of discussion on metaphysics over moaning electronics and a heart-pumping industrial rhythm with other industrial-electronics in play usher this one to conclusion. I really got a kick out of the title of "Go Fuck Yourself With Your Atom Bomb," but the jerkish vocal sample "I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations" kind of ruined it for me. Small matter though; the ambience is pretty good, and you do get a brief sample of the title at the end. Final track, and the one with the longest title - "Gran Plan Para La Transformacion De La Naturaleza" is also the lengthiest time-wise (11:48), and perhaps the most expansive on the album. The soundscape has a transcendent quality that approaches the spiritual, yet retains the flavor of Escupemetralla's shaggy experimentalism. As a whole, 'Poison of Dead Sun in Your Brain Slowly Fading' may not be the ultimate achievement in industrial ambient soundscapes, but it certainly has its moments.
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