Music Reviews



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Artist: Ephemeral Mists (@)
Title: Moon Ritual
Format: CD
Label: Mythical Records (@)
Rated: *****
According to the label, Ephemeral Mists "combines the best parts of the musical idioms of both contemporary electronic ambient music and the ancient, traditional musical landscapes of the middle east." Fair enough. Ephemeral Mists throws down some interesting ethno-ambient. As far as comparisons go, some include Loop Guru, Enigma, Deep Forest, and older Delerium (Karma, for example). The album opens on a weak note; "Awakeing Spirits" sounds much like every other world music album, complete with female chanting/moaning and "Eastern Channels" sounds like something straight off Delerium’s "Semantic Spaces." It really isn’t until "Transcendental Visions" that Ephemeral Mists seems to find their own voice. This track is a slow dirge with percussion that has a melancholy feel. For me, the standout track is "Where the Wind is Born," which has a good amount of variety and is a bit darker than some of the other material on the album. This is, for me, the most engaging track on the album. Overall, it isn’t bad, but I can’t shake the feeling that I have heard much of this 10 years ago. This album weighs in at 49 minutes.
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Artist: Roberto Rodriguez (@)
Title: The First Basket
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik (@)
Rated: *****
OK, first off, I was a bit thrown off when I saw the name of the composer and the fact that it was part of the Radical Jewish Culture series. According to the label, this album is "Charming and imaginative music for a controversial film that follows the Jewish basketball experience from ash cans placed on the stoops of brownstones to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden" that "jumps from klezmer to classical, dixieland, pop, rock and back again." This is my introduction to the series (I did not even know that Cuban-Jewish fusion music existed) and I must say that it is a lot of fun. What first caught my eye is that the album crams 30 songs into just under an hour. Although the album is varied, it does not seem at all disjointed, flowing well between styles. After all, where else are you going to find songs like "Catskills Jump," which is a straight up jazz number next to "Kosher Rasta" with a nice slow off beat reggae groove next to "Jewish America Jump" which is just what it sounds like – Oy Vey, Sousa! – next to "Red Auerbach," which is a rocking little track with electric guitar that sounds like it could be played by any bar band followed by "Doina 1," which is a solo clarinet, and "The Jewish Suburbs," which is a kind of cheesy Latin lounge track that would be right at home on Lawrence Welk. And this is just one chunk of the album. The rest of the album follows a similar trajectory, which is to say that it is seemingly random. Is there Klezmer on this disc? Oh yeah – "Philadelphia Spahs" is a great spastic track; you can almost see the people dancing. This disc has everything, but unlike many albums that try to blend a million different styles, this one actually works, partly because some of the same musical themes keep reappearing in different songs, providing a kind of continuity. If you are looking for something different and want to expand your musical horizons a bit, this is worth checking out. This disc weighs in at 59.15.
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Artist: Kodomo (@)
Title: Still Life
Format: CD
Label: 5 Points Records
Rated: *****
Kodomo is the brainchild of Chris Child (according to Child, Kodomo means "child" in Japan, where he spent his childhood). This is his debut album. According to Kodomo, "The concept for the record was born of a series of photographs, each one serving as a springboard for the music. The album explores how images of environments, landscapes, people, and objects are used to evoke musical ideas; each image giving rise to various rhythms, chords, and sonic textures." In short, this is instrumental electronic music and thankfully Kodomo avoids the use of cheesy samples that most people who do this kind of music find obligatory. The bonus track, "Spira Mirablis" is currently featured in the MTV/Harmonix iPod video game "Phase." This seems fitting because the entire album would be right at home on a video game. All of the tracks have a tendency to kind of fade into the background of whatever else you are doing. However, this is a two edged sword, as I found the disc to be a bit on the sterile side and a bit too subdued. There is an interesting mixture of styles here and it is adequately done, but it doesn’t really seem to break any new ground. Some of the comparisons that the label gives in the press pack (which, incidentally was quite niceI thought that the art of sending a promo was dead these days) include Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. This is accurate as far as it goes, but I find that Kodomo lacks some of the experimentalism that these acts have. Perhaps part of this is a product of his training; Kodomo is a graduate of Berklee College of Music. As such, the music is cleanly produced and technically sound. Overall, this is a pleasant listen and it would be a good way to introduce electronic music to someone who was new to the genrecall it the gateway drug for more experimental electronica. If this sounds good, you can listen to the entire album at the label’s website and preview the tracks on Kodomo’s website. Also, you may hear it other places. I could have sworn I heard it as incidental music on NPR recently. The disc weighs in at around 51 minutes and comes nicely packaged in a digipak with a booklet containing the aforementioned photographs.
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Artist: Teleseen
Title: Fear of the Forest
Format: CD
Label: Percepts (@)
Well, the label on the disc got my attention when it called the album "an electronic MC Escher." I was thinking that I was about to listen to the heir apparent to Coil’s legacy, or at least something like Oval. If you’re looking for this too, we both need to keep looking, because I think that this is a pretty inaccurate description. Putting a vocoder on some voices does not an experimental album make. The label is a bit more accurate, describing it thus: "The rhythmic grids of dancehall, ragga, two step, reggae and soul melt into each other forming a psychedelic lattice on which multivalent ambiences, melodies and vocals hang, splayed open like a tree that has been malformed by a vine grown around it for decades." Here we have a decent mix of dub and electronica. The closest comparison I could come up with is Zion Train or Twilight Circus. Overall, the album maintains the same laid back groove with the vocodered voices and some sparse synth lines, but the focus is definitely on the beat. Some, however, seem a little bit out of place, such as "Chikurubi feat. Billy Woods" that incorporates some rapping over the beats. It’s a pleasant listen, but (perhaps I am a bit jaded in this regard) I don’t really see this pushing the envelope too much until the end with "The Echo Will Triumph Over the Voice," which is a mix of beats, distorted electronics and blips and bleeps. I wish that the entire album had followed such a trajectory. This disc weighs in at around 56 minutes.
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Artist: Dolmen (@)
Title: Incantations Verse Two
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu
Rated: *****
According to the website, Incantations Verse 1 & 2 were composed and intended to be listened to back to back. You can get a bit more on the band and such in the review for Incantations Verse 1. They describe the album thus: "Incantations push the boundaries of dark ambient music while encompassing the dense textures of the shoegaze, the power of post-rock and the rhythmic procession of authentic tribal music." The first Incantations disc would have been right at home on a label like Cyclic Law, where this one would be right at home on Projekt records back in the day. The closest comparison that I can give would be a less dark version of Lycia. This album throws down wonderful soundscapes that bring in bits of percussion and noise that simmer just below the surface of lush drones. If you like drone music, this is definitely one to pick up. I enjoyed Incantations Verse 1, but Verse 2 will be the one logging much more time in my CD player. Recommended. This disc weighs in at around 55 minutes.
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