Music Reviews



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Artist: Harold Nono (@)
Title: Ideeit
Format: CD
Label: Bearsuit (@)
Rated: *****
Following a plenty of amazing collaborations - I warmly recommend to check the ones with Berlin-based elegant producer Me Raabenstein as Taub and the one with Japanese duo N-quia for the collaborative project Haq -, Edinburgh-based producer Harold Nono (real name David Hillary) comes back by a solo release on his own imprint, the excellent Bearsuit Records. If you've never heard something by this subliminal kid (a quotation), you should say sorry to your brain, as Harold Nono's style manages to combine samples, cinematic suggestions, witty references, neo-classical music, ambient and electronica in a very psychedelic way. The opening "Tahiik" immediately takes listening by a magnetizing carousel where a chattering by an adult and a kid got poured into a sweeping cinematic orchestration (close to the likes of the previously mentioned Me Raabenstein, but they could also surmise something by Murcof, Jan Jelinek or Venetian Snares). Such a perfect attacco prepares the ground for a swirling set of aural pearls, oscillating between the frenzy sentimentalism or the vague nostalgic nuances of tracks like "Dedy", "The King Tree" or "Running Down A Pipe", the lopsided surrealism of tunes like "Otosan" or "Dead Man's Fall", the hinky day-dreaming evoked by pieces like "I'm Disguised As An idiot" or the deeply emotional "Life Under The Lafayette", a track where Harold Nono seems to bare and give voice to the contrast between a majestic and naive elegance and some poisoning feeling of decadence. The final track "Watashi Wa Ie Ni Kaeritai" (Japanese for "I want to go home"!) is just seemingly sad: be patient, and after some minutes of silence, the ghost track will blossom and is going to uplift your soul by a delicate piano melody! Not to be left unlistened!
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Artist: Roman Leykam
Title: Impressions
Format: CD + Book
Label: Frank Mark Arts (@)
Rated: *****
As most of you maybe know, Roman Leykam is maybe one of the most incontinent artists belonging to the roster of Frank Mark Arts. He recently enriched the catalogue under this imprint by a series of more or less interesting outputs and the choice of focusing more carefully on the visual framework by the label has undoubtedly a plus for the comprehension of Leykam, particularly if you don't really care about aural details and real sonic pearls, which doesn'ìt lack in the musical explorations of this veteran of experimental ambient music. I could recommend having a check of "The Detection Of Slowness," the collaborative release with Frank Mark himself including an amazing video DVD, which could be a real guide to appreciating the listening more, for instance. "Impressions" follows this editorial strategy as well, as the label attached an internal booklet of beautiful snapshots (portraying natural landscapes or magnified details of plants, flowers, stones, ponds, lakes and so on) to its elegant digipak. You would quickly notice that Leykam's minimal textures of effected guitar, synth guitars and the amazing sounds he squeezed from his equipment (often looking like some other instruments such as a kind of hybrid between a brass and a cello in "Vision", the flute-like whispers in "The Leisure" or "Essence", a sort of alien dulcimer in "Weathered", the metallophone-like hits in "Abandoned" or the bizarre slapped glittering on tracks like "Pleasant Anticipation" or "Point of No Return") are somehow consonant with the pictures of the booklet. If you're searching for some new music for meditations, "Impressions" may be a guessed choice.
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Artist: Fail Better!
Title: Zero Sum
Format: CD
Label: JACC Records (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not sure how this impressive release (out on 2014 actually) arrived on my desk, but I enjoyed its listening. I guess some member could have sent it to me some weeks ago together with their newest output (I hope to introduce it in the forthcoming days), but it stayed buried under mountains of other releases for some days. Named after one of the most quoted sentence by Samuel Beckett (I remember I saw it once tattooed on some shoulders as well!) - "ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better" (taken from his famous novel Worstward Ho), this ensemble of improvisers consists of five members coming from different parts of Portugal (Lisbon, Porto, and Coimbra): guitarist Marcelo dos Reis (the sender?), Joao Pais Filipe on drums, Joao Guimaraes on alto saxophone, double-bass player Jose Miguel Pereira and Luis Vicente on trumpet. If you studied economics or mathematics, you should know what a zero-sum game is: it refers to the situation in which the final result of the action by each player is substantially neutral (no winners, no losers). I guess it could refer to the fact there any (instrument) player doesn't prevail on others over the six improvised sessions, but they somehow balance themselves, and even the general mood doesn't sound compulsively competitive, but such a circumvention doesn't imply they offered a listening experience lacking pleasant moments. Recorded live at Salao Brazil in Coimbra on 8th February 2013, one of the features I noticed in the dynamics of each part is the subdivision of roles: there are generally two instruments duelling and other instruments playing a sort of inciters (generally pairing drums in this role), but the phases and even the timing of a real duel/game got strictly observed. The first two parts (the dodgiest "Bright Red" and the following "This is Our Gun") could get compared to the study phases, where musicians seem to portray a frigging staring contest and an exhibition of muscles. Both of them are quite long lasting, while the central pieces ("Fallout Breeders" - featuring an incredible performance on guitar by Marcelo dos Reis - and "Dysfunctional Wire" - double bass nervous playing is a great instigator -) could mirror the moment of the battle and the sound consequently gets more vigorous and violent. Again, timing is perfect as both of them are the shortest parts of the whole session. The fire of the passion doesn't seem entirely extinguished on the mood of "The Growing Border," but the previously indomitable fury gives way to the yelling stings of the bleeding wounds. The fantastic final "Challenge/Challenges" doesn't sound resolutive at all: no winners and no losers prevail, as a matter of fact, but the quintet almost renders the search for significance to that duel!
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Artist: X-Navi:Et (@)
Title: Technosis
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Despite the fact the phenomenon is still evolving, the theme of consequences of technology on humanity and the (also biological) mutations related to this unprecedented technological acceleration as well as the development of an addiction to technological devices is not so new as a plenty of sociologists, anthropologists, psychologist and many other expertises in different branches of human knowledge wrote a lot about this subject, but the way by which such a fear got translated into sound in this last output by Polish producer Rafal Iwanski (I already introduced many projects he's taking part of such as HATI, Innercity Ensemble and Alameda 5) is fascinating. The title "Technosis" itself is a quotation of the definition ("civilization disease related to technology"), taken from "Philosophy of Civilization", an essay by Polish philosopher and educator Jozef Marian Banka, who keeps on studying this phenomenon. The opening track "Matnia" (Polish word for the French expression "cul de sac", referring to a path of no return) immediately sets the mood by a well-balanced mix of rising crippling percussions and thrilling sounds (close to the ones you could hear in horror movies when the watcher expect the appearance of a dangerous entity from some dark place of the scene); the breath you'd hear in the following "Ex Homo Sap" seems to render the above mentioned human mutation with the burden of concern that it could imply, while the following "Oto Technosis" sounds like the summoning digitalization of some old African tune. The whispered murmuring of Ewa Binczyk in the sinister mist evoked by the sonorities that Rafal assembled in "Medium" could mirror that diaphragmatic phase when the expected changes are still in progress but could let you guess what the next stages are going to bring about. Rafal wisely absorbs different ethnical influences in this unusual rendering technology-driven civilization disease: besides the previously sketched connection of the described tracks, it becomes clear in the following "In Extremis" as well as in the disquieting chimes of "Orient: Melancholia". All ethnic percussions you could recognize in his melting pot (an Irish bodhran, a South African mbira, a Chinese hulusi, an Egyptian zummara and a Moroccan bendir) are real, but the whole release is made by real entities: a relevant feature of Rafal's sound in "Technosis" is the total lack of field recordings, synths, samples or drum machines (besides the list of ethnic instrument I already mentioned, he just used Shanti chimes, bells, metal objects, contact mics, analog filter machine, a tone generator, a loop system and so on ) and such an aspect can be logically related to the conceptual framework of the album. The natural soundscape in "Pseudo Ambient" could be considered as another claims of forgotten human roots, while the final "Alchemy of Sounds", whose length (23 minutes and 23 seconds seems to be a desired aspect, due to the "esoteric" meaning of number 23), could keep on feeding the in-depth meditation a listener could be absorbed by. Do you remember the "fearful symmetry" of William Blake's tiger? Well, "Technosis" could be the roaring of that tiger in a sense. After its genetical mutation, of course...
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Artist: Norman Westberg (@)
Title: Jasper Sits Out
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
Norman Westberg, from the experimental rock band Swans, has been creating his own modestly simple but powerful solo product on the side for some time. Initially selling CDRs through Etsy, of all places, one of the earliest of these has been picked up and re-released on the Room40 label, with a new bonus track making 3.

It’s a very simple premise consisting of guitars and some effect pedals, yet the result is an extremely rich and textured synthesis of long tones and soft rhythms that sounds like it could have been crafted over many hours with many thousands of pounds’ worth of equipment. Here are some long and careful ambiences with a delicate touch.

The title track undulates initially around 60 beats per minute, the bottom end of a regular heart rate, very conducive to curling up and relaxing. As things evolve and develop, a sense of alarm slowly creeps in, so that after twenty minutes, you realise almost in awe you are now listening to a melodic siren that is failing to panic you- yet you don’t mind.

“Homeset Trunc” tenses things up a little, with choral-esque sustained tones affixed above a stepping rhythm that’s loosely 120bpm and which somehow manages to sound womb-like and industrial in equal measure. Lighter guitar patterns later on keep things comforting as the deeper rhythm ebbs away.

Bonus track “A Particular Tuesday” drops the rhythmic component almost completely in favour of clear, gently contoured and interwoven guitar tones with a glass-like fragility.

All in, it’s an exemplary exercise in simple, beautiful experimental tones that’s far more than the sum of its parts.
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