Music Reviews



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Artist: Ben Frost
Title: By the Throat
Format: CD
Label: Bedroom Community (@)
Distributor: Kompakt
Rated: *****
Successor this his critically acclaimed "Theory of Machines" album, Australian-born Ben Frost's new album "By the Throat" comes out on the same Icelandic label Bedroom Community and if I'd have to describe it with one word I would say: powerful! Definitely one of the most interesting releases I have heard in a while, "By the Throat" has humongous presence and weight and its massively enveloping sonic fabric is discomforting in the most comforting of ways.
It's hard to describe Frost's sound and even harder to draw comparisons, but I'd say that if you can imagine what Sunn O))) might sound like without walls of guitars you'd be in the ballpark. Frost's visceral and dark sound is rooted as much in the experimental/noise world as it is in the minimalist neo classical world (think Steve Reich, Manorexia, Jeremiah Cymerman, Alvin Curran). His compositions are built with equal part apocalyptic post-industrial drones and piano/strings interludes. It might make a great horror movie soundtrack, but a record this good would almost be wasted on visuals because it has a power to evoke visuals of its own. This music is about contrast and Frost has plenty of that. You go from ethereal sound fields, distant piano notes and gentle fragile sustained violin notes to glitchy distortions, sub-sonic pulsating bass notes and howling wolves.
This album, as most of Frost's collaborations, was engineerd and produced by fellow Icelandic Valgeir Sigurðsson (Björk, Kronos Quartet), who did an amazing job at capturing, building and presenting the depth of Ben Frost's sound. The album also features performances by Amiina, The Arcade Fire's Jeremy Gara, Swedish metal outfit Crowpath and composer Nico Muhly.
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Artist: Gjöll (@)
Title: Sum of Transformations
Format: CD
Label: Ant-Zen (@)
Rated: *****
The most remarkable transformation acting as an addend in this sum by the surprising Icelandic duo Gjöll, made up of the talented musicians Jóhann Eiriksson and Sigurður Harðarsson, is the stylistical turnabout of the band towards an interesting aggregation between dark-ambient elements and krautrock ones, combining an abstract evocatory charm with a deep awareness of the actual phase of human history. Some heavy thuds of delayed guitars on obscure jaculatories declaimed in the language of Vikings (don’t be scared as there’s an English translation on the booklet) in the introductory Natural Anarchy stimulate my imagination associating all these scenic/sonic elements to a sort of shamanic rite in the deepest cave of the known Icelandic volcano Eyjafjöll whereas the mentioned thuds sound like a musical transposition of the ashy explosions inside its belly. The track’s title as well as the conceptual framework of this release appears inspired by Free As a Bird: Natural Anarchism in Action, an essay by the American activist Pattrice Jones, suggesting some nonhierarchical and non-coercive organizational models taken from the so-called animal world as possible alternatives to actual governments., even if things such the famous Troubled Asset Relief Program might induce in arguing there’re some brain-injured monkeys occupying important seats of the Congress or in the bureaus of Fed. The thrilling tickling of a metronome with bumped accent on fourth step timing with your heart-beat while a creeping and disquieting drone sneaks into the cracks of listeners’ thoughts perfectly fits a track entitled Abandon All Hope. The most luminous addend of this sum is The Only True Philosophical Problem - it’s not a wise statement, but just the title of the song -, going on a tangent of delayed echoes, guitar glides and airy sounds close to the consistency Boards Of Canada gave to their sound in Campfire Headphase. By the way Gjöll’s way to shape their chaos looks even harsher and less ethereal than Sigur Ros’s one as it seems they arrive to different goals instead of similar starting point from the conceptual viewpoint - the feral nature of human society -.

Their soundscapes are not going to alienate or dejecting listeners, but look more like to a fertile soil Gjöll acting as patient and thoughtful farmers prepare for their thoughts and actions and after feeding you with luminous sounds they’ll tuck you in for the night with the gloomy atmosphere and a slow agonizing pulsating beat- wonderfully processed - of Tuckling In For The Collapse and that distinctive digital iciness of the intense Dérive - maybe the most entrancing track of the whole album -. A sort of vocal drone blowing superbly among circular sounds becoming gradually more and more obsessive by unexpected lathe-boring noises in Unity With The Earthworms - close to Origami Galaktica’s entrancing dark-ambient - seems to belong to some remote neo-pagan death cult, flapping your ears before the final majestic hosanna to nature, able with its powers to bare the insignificance of human beings by the swarming dark-ambient maestoso of At The Hanging Of The Last Of The Career Politicians - what a great title!!! -. A part of its almost oracular tones and its esoteric appeal, Sum Of Transformations could stand as the definitive portrait of a nature rebalancing itself against human typical lack of equilibrium, a process which open minded people will not face as a nihilistic assumption.
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Artist: The Q4
Title: Darker Days
Format: 12"
Label: Project Moon Circle (@)
Rated: *****
TheQ4 is a Dutch production trio consisting of sampling specialists Sense, Arts the Beatdoctor and STW. DARKER DAYS is their latest E.P. which is anticipating their album "Sound surroundings". Available in vinyl+tape and digital download, the release contains six great trip-hop tunes that won't shall be missed by The Propellerheads' or Portishead lovers. Tracks like "One Of These Days (Glen Porter Remix)" (which contains The Doors vocal samples) or "Reminisce will amaze you for the way of mixing tiny samples and for the ability of making the tunes sound smooth. Lounge atmospheres and trip hop rhythms will turn your room into a 60s club where Sean Connery is playing 007 day after day. A real cinematic experience...
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Artist: VV.AA
Title: Some Tunes III
Format: CD
Label: Basserk (@)
Rated: *****
Are you ready for a new Basserk compilation? Like on the hand granade of the cover, the album is ready to blast. As usual we have new and old acts that are already part of the label's roster. The old ones are: Nobody Beats The Drum ("Dirty money" is a raw electro techno tune with cool dub slowing parts), Bronstibock (here with Mc Complex they bring "Game on", a cool electro dub distorted song), Lazy Late Kidz ("95.4 FM" is a nice instrumental but it didn't excited me too much), Tanzkonsol ("Bamboo" is a tune made by three electro/techno parts where bleeping loop distortions are mixed with obsessive rhythms) and MilkMoneyMaffia ("Touch my cheese" is a great track where MilkMoneyMaffia is giving his best with his typical nasty filtered voice and his electro hop atmospheres) and they are ready to bounce out of your speakers with new tracks. On this new issue of SOME TUNES we have ten newcomers: More & Lezz (B), Aerotronic (B), Distrakt (AUS), Doctr (NL), PartyMode (USA), Brilliants (I), Kaito (NL), Little Poney (F), daLa (MEX), Doctr (NL) and Plemo. Moore & Lezz and Aerotronic bring two dancey techno/electro tunes. Plemo feat. Anne Rikje Rosenthal with "Dj Dj' make me think of an electro version of early New Order with nice young female/male vocals. Kaito is sounding like a good Daftpunk track mixed with funk vocals. Distrakt are here with a techno remix of Niyi "Jungle fever". daLa with "El pollo loco" play with electro rhythm/sounds making a funny tune with distorted bass lines. Doctr didn't amazed me as "WoopWoop" is nice but it sounds like a rhythmical samples divertissment. Party Mode are here remixed by Chokr with "Coma", a nice menacing techno tune with mad synthesizers' filters. Jean Balaise from France is here with "Salauds de pauvres" a bouncing distorted track where melody is hidden behind 4/4 rhythms. Little Poney are here with "Step it" a song made of grime bass lines and vocal samples. Nice but not my favorite one. Brilliants are coming from Italy and "La fuga" sounds like a good post punk song made with electronic gears. It sounds fresh and energetic and it's the last song I had to talk about. :)
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Folk Studio
Format: 10"
Label: HR! SPQR (@)
Rated: *****
FOLK STUDIO is the first issue of a compilation that is part of a wider project that sees different bands of the new folk musical area going beyond the common concept of nowadays neo folk music. The Green Man, Roma Amor, Having Thin Moonshine and Egida Aurea wanted to catch the true spirit of the genre by linking their music to the old Italian folk music. Acoustic instruments typical of their origin places have been used creating a real modern folk music. During the 60s Italian beat bands tried to do the same by mixing dialect and modern music (check the I Pelati or Bertas) but during the years folk music has been confined to regional boundaries. Now the times are right to revive the concept and on the five tracks of this 10" you'll find ballads (like The Green Man's "Idda"or Egida Aurea's "Criu du ventu"), tangoes (check Roma Amor's "La tradida") and rumbling cavalcades (like on "Evoe" by Having Thin Moonshine or the second track by The Green Man "La baronessa di Carini"). The bands presented the 10" in Milan the thirty first of March giving the official start to the project. The real new Italian folk music has started to spread...
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