Music Reviews

Jun 13 2010
Artist: Lightphaser (@)
Title: Flashback
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: Amazon
Rated: *****
It seems as though more good things in the field of electronic music have been coming out of Eastern Europe lately. Here's an album that's firmly planted in the retro-electronica space music field. Seems as though this music was once the rage a while back, but somehow fell out of fashion. Actually it's good to hear Joseph Gogh (from Hungary) reviving it. The cosmic echoey sequenced electronics and LFO'd waveform bloops and swoops are reminiscent of Silent Records artists such as Alpha Wave Matrix and Spacetime Continuum (without Terrance McKenna), and even pioneer space-electronica bands like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk back when they were good.

Gogh uses enough rhythmic propulsion to drive his starship to avoid New Age clichés for the most part, and keeps his vocals on the cyber-side with the judicious aid of vocoder. The exception to this is the enlistment of his sister Timea to sing on a couple of tracks. It was the track 'Control,' that most stood out with Timea's vocals on the chorus. To be truthful, I couldn't make out what Joseph was saying on the verses through all the electronic processing, but Timea's voice came through strong and clear. Simple but effective. It would have been nice to hear more of her'¦definitely a candidate for a track on a compilation. Gogh's vocals on 'Give or Take' are still processed to a degree, but a bit more intelligible and a little edgy.

The structure of Lightphaser's music is pretty simplistic but the elements are interesting and at times complex. I wouldn't really call the tone of it dark in the way electro-industrial and EBM are dark, but I wouldn't call it cheery either. Not gloom, just the coldness of space. There is rarely a time in the music when there isn't some sort of rhythmic element going on, and that's a good thing with a project like this. Also, in keeping vocals to a minimum, or using less words, there is greater impact when they are present. Since they are processed and spoke-sung, it sounds like a cyborgian element of the music. As for the synth sounds, they're mostly old school with a bit of updating. (I kept hearing shade of Gary Numan here and there.) If there was one gripe I have with 'Flashback' it has to be the use of normal drumkit sounds on some tracks. I guess Gough was going for a bit of power, but I would have stayed completely in the realm of electronic percussion. I think it detracts from the cosmic quality of the music I believe Lightphaser is striving for.

In conclusion, this is a very cool release with a lot of sonic variety. I tend to gauge how much I like a CD by how often it ends up in play rotation, and whether I would buy it (if I didn't already have it). To that end, 'Flashback' has probably been played more than any other CD in the recent batch I received from the Chain D.L.K. HQ, and I'd probably buy it if I had only heard certain pieces from it, 'Falling Horizon,' 'Eternity,' and 'Control,' being particularly good tracks. Definitely worth checking out.
Artist: Anatoly Pereslegin (@)
Title: Xenophobia
Format: CD
Label: Electroshock Records (@)
Distributor: Eurock
Rated: *****
We've got a lot of releases from the Russian Electroshock Records label to review, so let's dig right in. When you review for Chain D.L.K., you never know what you're going to get, so you have to be prepared for anything. Actually, Anatoly Pereslegin's 'Xenophobia' was the first CD out of the big batch recently received from Chain D.L.K. HQ to review that I auditioned, but decided to put aside until my ears worked up the courage to hear it a couple of more times. Yes, it is that harsh. Xenophobia is defined as a fear of foreigners, or other races and cultures. Perhaps in the context of this work, it could mean races alien to the planet Earth, as it sounds about as alien as you can get, and is sure to alienate the 'average Joe' listener.

Anatoly Pereslegin is a Russian avant-garde artist of some renown (at least in Europe) and has an association (and several releases) with the Electroshock going back to 2000. Some of Pereslegin's other releases have included symphonic and orchestral elements and have been more accessible than 'Xenophobia,' which is PURE NOISE. Well, the vast majority of it is. I don't often encounter noise releases that are as brutal and uncompromising (throughout) as say, Merzbow, but this is certainly one of them.

Since the Noise music genre encompasses such a wide spectrum of form and style, it is necessary to define what we are dealing with here. First ' Drone- a constant, linear wave of sound devoid of any rhythmic properties. Not all drones are pleasant or ambient in nature; some drones (like the sound of a swarm of bees) make for uneasy listening. This is the type of drone we're dealing with on 'Xenophobia'. As for ambient, the traditional use of the term applies to background music or noise; a sonic environment that serves as atmosphere rather than the focus of attention. 'Xenophobia' is more along the lines of noise pollution rather than ambient in the same way the sound of a crackling campfire may be construed as ambient and the sound of a firestorm is not. In order to be ambient (at least for me), the sonic environment must be tolerable (and likely even enjoyable) over a lengthy duration. This is an aesthetic that perhaps not everyone will agree with, but for me, is necessary to establish. If I were to call this release 'ambient,' someone might get the impression that the sonic environment of 'Xenophobia' was subdued. It certainly is not.

Unless you're a real pure noise enthusiast, you are likely to have stopped reading this review and moved on by now. With that in mind, the rest of the review is for the purists. I have often wondered what it is about the harsh noise genre that attracts listeners to it. It is easy enough to understand the artists' motivation in making musical statements, but listening to unpleasant walls of sound is no easy task. It seems like more an intellectual exercise than an emotional experience. For me, I prefer Noise music with a variety of sonic events, or changes over time. Sometimes there can be a bit of subtlety to the process, but it's difficult to be subtle when the predominate character of the music is a harsh sonic environment.
'Xenophobia' consists of three lengthy pieces, ranging from about 21 to 27 minutes each. There is little respite in any of these pieces. They are all made up of complex electronic drones and squalls that carry on throughout each. The first piece, 'Kiss of the White Dwarf' begins with a drone that sounds like the previously mentioned swarm of bees. There is some pitch variation, other waveforms and harmonics that join in, some LFO oscillation modulation, ring modulation, and white noise elements. There is a subtle undercurrent of orchestration, but it is really subtle and sporadic. The piece wavers in intensity where at times only the (filtered) white noise element is present. The mix of pitches is interesting to a degree as it seems to flow seamlessly. The tonality and texture of the composition morphs over time. Frequencies are mostly in the mid-range, although there are lower and higher frequencies introduced at various points over time. The piece has an ebb and flow which is an interesting aspect, but in a disturbing way. None of the sonic events are enough to hold your attention, but like a train wreck, the music allows for no distraction either.

'Rape Quantum' is the toughest listen on Xenophobia (and longest track too), as it is a thick plume of noise often as screechingly uncomfortable as fingernails scraped across a blackboard. It is as uncompromising as it gets in the harsh power noise genre with varying degrees of intensity; a seemingly relentless oil plume of noise pollution. 27 minutes is definitely an endurance test. The last piece, 'Heteroemergency,' doesn't seem radically different than the other at first. However, there is more variation in sonic events'¦still subtle to a degree. At about the eight minute mark the sonic barrage calms down to a dull roar for a bit as steamy white noise washes over the wall of sound. Then, it just stops for a couple of seconds. (What's up with that?) It seems as though a new piece begins mid-track shifting tonality with interplay of random sub-sounds that may or may not be orchestral elements. Eventually it homogenizes with a series of modulated drone tones in the mid-to-upper frequencies and becomes a bit choppy. This piece is an extremely challenging listen, not just because of the harsh nature of the music, but because of all the elements going on. It's like a noise symphony. The one thing that disturbed me about all three pieces is that they just end, not fade away. It seemed odd.

I hesitate to make a comparison with Anatoly Pereslegin's 'Xenophobia' and any other artist or release in the noise genre; it would be selling it short, and perhaps put it in an unfair perspective. Sure, I could site Merzbow, Conure, Karkowsky, or even Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' for its uncomfortability factor, but the fact is, Xenophobia' is quite different than all of them. It will test you listening stamina in more ways than one. For me, this is not a pleasurable experience, but I can appreciate the artist's intent and effort. So this is a difficult CD to rate. If you're really into noise music, give it an extra star and a half. If you're not, take away three stars, you just won't like it. One thing is certain; Electroshock Records seems to be on the cutting edge of unusual electronic releases and now that they've ramped up their catalogue, you're sure to be hearing more about them and their artists in the near future.

Artist: Hurry Hurry feat.Marilyn Thomas (@)
Title: Life
Format: CD
Label: Substantial Brothers Productions (@)
Hailing from Lake Heights, Western Australia, the Hurrys Brothers, Rob and Wayne, after a remarkable experience in the composition of music for commercial release and film-scoring, decided to dwell on a personal musical project which might potentially have many interesting developments. As a matter of fact, this first release entitled Life ' they took almost three years to finish it ' even if it's not so easy to categorize could stand as a sort of music-ed audio-book dealing with an immersive narration, almost lost in reverie, about the presumable appearance of Planet Earth before the coming of mankind and its greedy purposes, whimsically spoken by Marilyn Thomas, acting as an imaginary Gaia, narrating in such an interesting way a sort of auto-biographical report! Some sounds look a little too 'vintage' to my ears (maybe it's a sort of heritage from their professional experience I music business'¦), but have you ever imagined an audiobook full of quotations such as kosmische muzik (Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schultze in primis), Pink Floyd, new age's knights, primordial electronic music (maybe for the in-embryo themes of this record), space rock, symphonic rock and more in 16 chapters starting with a preface, A Million Stars / The Virgin Planet, which could let resurface to the listener's memory that French-powdered interpretation of glam-wave by Vintage after an overdose of Schultze's most ethereal release and some nice forays in dub and 'liquid' music territories (tracks such as Amphibion are definitively my favorite ones), and ending with the intensively emotional stress evoked in a track which could not be titled but Homo Sapiens? An enjoyable and educative (in many senses'¦try for example to imagine what could be the actual words of Mother Earth'¦) way to tell a story on how LIFE came to life!
Artist: Remember Twilight (@)
Title: Musik uber Niedergang & Verderben
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece
Rated: *****
The Stuttgart-based collective Remember Twilight set another stake in their stylistic scented yard's ground, whose rich harvesting let a spoiled and desolate landscape, a metaphor inspired by the title of this metal-rooted oevre, Musik uber Niedergang & Verderben i.e. Music about the decline and the spoiled or something like that, evoking the decadence sliding like a slobbering snail amalgamating throughout its slime acting like a sticky glue of the different elements which could define the sound they called Kammermusik-Core, a sort of dialogic combination between hardcore metal guitars and aggressive vocals with folk, gothic and 'classical' music instruments and melodies (violin, oboe, cello and piano), whose freaky formula (something I could describe by a reductive math-like formula 40 minutes to say what's the value of the unknown'¦but you could use your mp3-players!) is not exactly what is commonly known as gothic-rock for the pleasant company of folk-tinged and medieval chamber musical pills. Maybe the way they labeled their sound looks too emphatic, but their stylistic research is quite interesting, even if sometimes has too many points of intersection with parallel sound lab activities nicely leaded by other popular German bands to say it's really original. The opening track, wisely entitled sINnTROstIlos, could induce the listener to think about a prog-like grand ceremony propelled by a maniacal post-Manichean singer feeling himself almost as a misunderstood genius in god-mode, but the following Kunstler Der Dekadenz belies similar assumptions. There're many interesting songs in this album, produced by Markus Stock (The Vision Bleak), but I think the ones a listener could easily appreciate are those when the above-mentioned dialogue turns into a stressed epic-like suite such as in Ich Suche Gott ' the most 'medieval'-ish one of the album'¦-, Die Feder ' semantically play on the theme of the feather'¦even a feather could be heavy, lads! ' and In The Long Run ' Am Ende.

One of the most evident flaw in the china maybe is the dubious expressiveness of Timo's voice in some songs and that's maybe the reason I appreciate his art on track where his vocal skills undo those knots tying him to heavy metal standards such as the lovely hissing outro, Am Strand ' Spuren In Sand, or when he interprets in an eccentric and funny way the notorious Kurt Weill's Mackie Messer (aka Mack The Knife), the most famous tune of Die Dreigroschenoper (The threepenny opera), renowned satirical work co-written by Bertold Brecht. There're three remixes in the final part of the album, two of them already included in their mini-CD Der tolle Mensch, but the funniest one is maybe the electronic remix of Kunstler Der Dekadenz by Metallspurhunde, but his venture is nothink like but a divertssment. You could contest their musical value ' but it's quite difficult -, but you cannot say Musik uber Niedergang & Verderben is not coherent with Remember Twilight's musical pathway!
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Artist: TRIKE
Title: Trike And The Vikings
Format: CD
Label: Cheap Satanism (@)
Rated: *****
After three self made album, the Canadian synth extravaganza duo Trike are landing for their new album, on the Belgian label Cheap Satanism. They won $20,000 on Canadian television/radio competition 'The Gong Show', landing a Yamaha Equipment Sponsorship, performing over 200 shows in Europe and had their 'The New Album' reach number 6 on Canadian Kootenay radio and that's quite something. The fourteen songs of their first studio album are in balance between joyous synthpop and acoustic guitarism with tons of 80s influences which goes to The Specials (check the blow section of the opening "Player in love"), the B-52s or English indie pop labels like Postcard Records or Sarah Records. Their music reflects their approach to life as to me they seem to be free from any boundaries, so if "The trikey" sounds dancey, "Smack me around" could be perfect for Franz Ferdinand (so at least they would do something good after their debut album) and "Politics of love" sounds good as a melancholic Blur tune. At first TRIKE AND THE VIKINGS sounded like a joke to me but after a couple of spins I realized that Trike are playing but in a deadly serious way. Check their video for "my little pony", it made my day...
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