Music Reviews



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Artist: Bosaina
Title: New York April – July 2013 / Two Names Upon The Shore
Format: LP + Download
Label: Discrepant
Syrian/Egyptian singer songwriter and producer Bosaina here offers up two short EP’s stuck together.

In “New York” (in six parts), we get three pop song-length numbers separated by quirky interludes. Opening with balladic piano and keyboard playing and warm emotive chords set into a colder environment of found sounds and processed rainy atmospheres, with a smattering of odd and distant percussive patterns drifting in and out, sets you up for a melancholic or maybe even romantic listen- but when the third part kicks in, we shift into a trip-hop environment, with a heavier breakbeat, and Sneaker Pimps-style distorted vocals. The third substantial part (“June 3rd”) surprises us again, focussing on soft pure-sounding plinky synth sounds that have been glitched and re-triggered into a rather esoteric result. It’s an unusual collection of pieces that has some sonic consistency yet a wide variation in attitude.

The second EP “Two Names Upon The Shore” is equally hard to pin down. “Rivage” is another glitched and heavily effected piano piece, occasionally underpinned by rhythmic pulses. “Untitled” continues in a similar vein but with the spontaneous arrival of more distorted vocals and then harder-edged distortion halfway through. That format, of a purer sound with distortion arriving in the second half, is echoed in an instrumental fashion by final track “Abalone On The Grass”.

It’s an indulgently obtuse bundle of tracks where the sincerity and solemness is gatecrashed unpredictably by angier production touches that appear and disappear without warning. This gives it the distinctive but slightly inaccessible character of a work that can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be understood or not. It’s an interesting challenge.
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Artist: STCLVR
Title: Predator
Format: Tape
Label: Chthonic Streams (@)
Rated: *****
This album reminded me of late 90's / early 2000's dark electro bands mixed with some of today's abrasive power electronics projects. The vocals are gritty and the beats are dirty but catchy.

Less polished than a lot of the dark electro bands and I don't mean that as a put-down, it adds something to the tracks and makes them darker than what usually comes out of that genre.

This is a short but sweet release and as always with the Chthonic Streams releases, this one has some beautiful graphic design and packaging.
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Artist: Crisopa
Title: Transhumante
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence (@)
“Transhumante” is a short (7 track, 34 minute) bit of gentle electronica that’s correctly targeting an audience of fans of Boards Of Canada and especially Ulrich Schnauss. Simple bass notes and soft-and-steady beats with a faintly organic feel underpin warm pads and Rhodes-like chords which casually progress and meld into the atmosphere, with synthetic twiddles and bleeps tagging along for the ride.

There’s not a great deal of variation all things considered, with opening tracks “Bird Song Reincarnation” and “I Am The Lord Of These Ruins” built from a near-identical set of ingredients, with just the subtle hint of vocal in the latter to distinguish them. Despite the name, “Fast Dive” is almost equally languid, but just a little bit more bass-orientated. “Serene Option”, again somewhat ironically, is hardly any more serene than the tracks around it, apart perhaps from adopting slightly lighter key sounds.

“Melting Wax Sculptures” has a subtly higher energy but does drift dangerously close to sounding like a Coldplay ballad instrumental when it’s not being careful. After that we return to the first formula, with “Flourine Cold Frames” bringing quiet, Air-like vocal notes into an extremely Ulrich Schnauss-like soundscape. “Irradiating Nucleus”’s bass tone has just a dash of synthwave about it and provides a rich but uneventful wrap-up.

The limited edition CDR includes an eighth track, “Gran Panel”, which wasn’t included in the promo so I can’t comment on that. Given the consistency of the rest of the album I can be fairly confident about what it probably sounds like though…

Overall it’s a consistent and clear musical project with a warm, comforting and not especially distinctive sound. If you’re after music that grabs your attention, skip this one, but if you’re after something that will bolster your downtempo and chill out collection, this is worth a listen.
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Artist: Hyperbubble (@)
Title: Pretty Plastic
Format: CD
Label: Pure Pop For Now People (@)
Rated: *****
If there's one thing San Antonio, Texas synthpop duo Jeff & Jess DeCuir certainly are, it's prolific. In the time they've grabbed my attention I've reviewed no less than five of their albums previously. But these folks go back way further than my acquaintance with them- all the way back to 1997 in fact. That's why 'Pretty Plastic' is such a cool and vital album in the Hyperbubble oeuvre- it's a compilation of singles, compilation cuts, soundtracks and vinyl-only releases over the years on labels from England, Scotland, America, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Very little of it have I ever heard before, so for me it's like a band new album! This is the "good stuff" too - quirky dance-oriented synthpop, mostly with vocals, and not a lot of it experimental or off-genre. There are wonderful gems here such as "Girl Boy Pop Toy," two versions of "Synesthesia," "Disgow Glasgow" (did that swipe that from Telex's "Moscow Diskow" ?), "Candy Apple Daydream," "Better Set Your Phasers to Stun," "Rollerboogie Babydoll," "Welcome to Infinity," "Kinky," "Pop Star," and more. One of my favorite Hyperbubble ditties on this album is "Theme from Modsnap" (2007) which was used for a San Antonio-based , a public-access television cable TV show on fashion. Sounds very Euro-'80s. Overall, 'Pretty Plastic' is a wonderful comp, and while it can't encompass everything Hyperbubble's ever done, it does give you enough odds & sods to make it absolutely worthwhile. Recommended!

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Artist: Mikroben Krieg (@)
Title: Intrascape
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crime League (@)
Rated: *****
When last I heard from Portugal's Mikroben Krieg (Nelson L. Brites), it was 'Final Cut' (2010). Seven years later MK introduces 'Intrascape' which is a very different animal on a different label. This time around there are no vocals (maybe a mixed blessing as Brite's vocals were never that strong, but did humanize the music somewhat) and no spoken word samples. This is orchestrated instrumental electro-industrial heavy on the mood and rhythm. There are only five tracks in a total of 35 minutes (less than half the length of 'Final Cut'). The rhythms are much more elaborate and refined than what was on the last release, and has somewhat of a DnB sound to it. In a way, it reminds me of the instrumental side of Front Line Assembly, or what they use in the instrumental portions of their songs. One thing that is somewhat lacking is defined melody. What melodic content there is tends to be amorphic and simplistically vague. I suppose this is intentional but it leaves something to be desired. MK's rhythms incorporate more breakbeat elements than the last time out too, so things really do move along. 'Intrascape' vacillates between light and dark adding an element of mystery to its soundscapes. While I wasn't really knocked out by it, 'Intrascape' makes for pleasant enough listening, and shows some evolution in Mikroben Krieg's techniques. Maybe next time out will be the killer album.
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