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Artist: Electro Synthetic Rebellion (@)
Title: Distorted Memories
Format: CD EP
Label: e.s.r. productions
Distributor: DSBP
Rated: *****
'Limited Edition ' Extendet Play' ' although small typed right below on the front-cover, this has been one of the first positive facts of E.S.R.'s latest release. French fellow Vincent Pujol at least adds another goody to his rich filled and excellence-infiltrated discography. 'Distorted Memories' holds totally 13 tracks and can be temporary seen as a remix companion to Vincent's last full-length album 'Post-Industrial' (DSBP/Gravitator/Urgence Disk Records), but too as being a kind of EP to offer new tracks and to introduce some new projects and tendencies, how and in which kind Vince could continue.
You'll get 4 all new tracks, a new and still untitled demo track, a cover version on Public Relation's 'Eighty Eight', plus a first track named 'Twisted Shadow' of the new built side-project JOINT VISION, which includes Vincent and his friend Jerome Caulier. At least a remix contribution by the French act PSYCHICOLD accompanies this release. With more than 70 minutes of pure, adrenaline-driven Electro/Industrial music, you'll get a lot quantity, but also the quality of this on only 100 exemplars limited EP should be able to appeal you as being the interested listener.
In the first instance, the focus of attention lays on the four new tracks, from which the title-track 'Distorted Memories' 'available in two different versions - offers the most intensity in both parts of the composition ' it features an attractive synth-layer programming with a high recognition level, as well as a song structure, which invites the listeners to sink completely into the arrangements and it allows dancefloor movements of masses. What additionally attracts attention, is the fact, that Vince seemingly concentrates more to add a smoother fx-processing on his vocals ' compared to his earlier albums the vocals are sounding lesser harsh, although still aggressive enough.
As for the 4 remix works on his latest full-length studio album 'Post-Industrial', well, I guess you all know since Vince's self-released collection 'A Passage in Time V.1', that he quite often produces alternative versions on his tracks. This attitude helps out also on this EP, because all remixed tracks ('Cyberthief', 'World Domination', 'Resurrected' and 'Fallen Angels') got completely revamped by Vince himself ' no foreign remix work on his older tracks, no so-called prominent names offering remix contributions with questionable quality ' in all, it is a quite welcomed idea, to concentrate on his own abilities. The Warlock Mix on 'World Domination' is at least my personal favorite, especially after consuming Vince's icy-cold, but richly detailed synth pad programming on this tune.
As for the additional stuff, the still untitled new demo track sounds promising in its first versions, while the mutual new side-project JOINT VISION can't be judged on after only one track. The already above mentioned cover version sounds as expected from E.S.R., while I've to admit that I don't know anything about the original and have never heard of it. At least we'll get the remix work on the new track 'Low Life' of PSYCHICOLD and so the only one foreign band contribution, which adds musically the integration of some guitar riffs into the Electronica-driven sound.
A lot of stuff to discover, as usual from E.S.R., but I won't leave this one without a small word of criticism. I thought it was 'Wounds And Scars', released 4 years before, with which Vince has received his personal best-of-the-best album, as it was this one, which offered the most diversity and different moods pressed onto one silver circle. After consuming 'Post-Industrial' and now this EP, I come to the conclusion, that these both can only follow the quality of 'Wounds And Scars', but can't formulating anything new. To reach perfection and an automatically working process of composition can't be any longer the target of an Electro/Industrial project after 5 different studio albums, one collection and now one EP ' or to say it in short words ' Vincent runs into danger to repeat himself. Contrary to nearly all previous released albums, I miss a bit that groundbreaking idea in Vincent's work for a new or refreshing sound-design, a more consequent variation of speed, or simply the try to question own compositional tactics ' whatever may the most promising formula is to result into more diversity. But I am sure, that Vincent is quite aware of this situation and will find the right weapons against all upcoming hints of stagnancy.
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Artist: Christopher Willits (@)
Title: Tiger Flower Circle Sun
Format: CD
Label: Ghostly International (@)
Rated: *****
Christopher Willits is one of the artist whose work is focused on the fusion of electronic sounds with acoustic one, specifically his method is the processing and filtering of samples or session of acoustic instruments. So his music lost the typical seriousness, or coldness, of most of the recors that lies under the "experimental sounds" file.
This new album from this american composer is a pure summer one. "Sun Body" is the paradigm of this work, after some processed guitar, the beat start and then the voices (is always stunning to consider how large is the influence of Beach Boys vocal harmonies even outside pop music). Tracks like "Green Faces", "Intend Evolve", "Brunches into Flowers" are lovely examples of an equilibrium between experimental and pop. There's a complex structures behind "Uplinfting the Streets" where layers of electric guitar and, so it seems to me, oriental strings are carefully layered. "You are always surrounded by stars" features a remarkable change of rhythm that reveal the will to go beyond the standards of this type of sounds.
In other tunes like "Sunlight is You" or "Branches into Flowers" is clear the influence of the last Fennesz, just line tracks like "The hands connect to the Heart" and the "The hands connect to the Head" recall that there some reason between his collaboration with Sakamoto. But this hints are just to say: if you like this artist, this is a record not to miss.
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Artist: Suicidal Romance (@)
Title: Shattered Heart Reflections
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis Records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Records
Rated: *****
This is the second of two releases I receive from the same source, Dimitry i. of Tallinn, Estonia, the first being Freakangel's 'The Faults of Humanity' covered in a previous review. Although Dimitry seems to run both bands, here in Suicidal Romance he hands over a good chunk of the vocal reins to Viktoria Seimar, which is a very good thing because Viktoria has a lot of vocal talent. Apparently this isn't the first outing for Suicidal Romance ' their 2007 debut was 'Love Beyond Reach,' and in 2008 an EP titled 'A Kiss to Resist'. I haven't heard either of those, so all I have to go on is 'Shattered heart Reflections' which is just fine.

The lineup in this band is Viktoria Seimar (lead vocals), Dimitry i. (vocals, lyrics, music), and Maarja Korstnick (synths, lyrics, visual concept). In Europe I believe the band is on the Infacted Recordings label, but in the U.S., it's Metropolis, so I'll just consider them a Metropolis import, which isn't a bad thing to be at all. This is very cool Darkwave and dark synthpop, and the most obvious comparison would be to L'ame Immortelle due to the contrast of Dimitry and Viktoria's vocals. However, neither of them sound identical to Sonja K. and Thomas R., which is another good thing as I can only take L'ame Immortelle in small doses. Viktoria's vocals are a lot smother than Sonja's though. If there is anyone that Viktoria does sound like, it would have to be'¦another Victoria! Victoria Lloyd from Claire Voyant. If fact, their voices are so similar at times, it's uncanny. What I like about both of them is that both their voices soar, and are always in key. This is something you don't always find in the goth/darkwave world, so when you get it, it's much appreciated. Dimitry's vocal style with Suicidal Romance is toned down from his Freakangel vox, somewhat like Claus (Leaether Strip) or Rudy (Wumpscut) in their more restrained moments. A wise move on Dimitry's part.

One great thing about 'Shattered Hear Reflections' is that the songs across the board are really good, and the contrast between Dimitry and Viktoria's voice works more often than not. The synth arrangements are competent and don't compete with the vocals. I have to hand it to Maarja for her tasteful and effective playing. It suits the band perfectly. A tasteful yet powerful blend of synth and piano. The vocal melody is memorable which bodes for a high replayability factor. It's dark, but not too dark. Just edgy enough to be intriguing with sufficient drama to hold your interest, and it only seems to get better with repeated listenings. There is also an occasional touch of complimentary harmony with Viktoria's vocals. Everything is so well done that I'd be interested in seeing how they pull it off live.

It's hard to pick out standout tracks when they're all so good, but 'Words That Change Everything,' 'Her Song,' and 'Build Me a Heart' are three of the best. Dimitry is very lucky to have a talented singer like Viktoria in this band. Her vocal acrobatics are enthralling. It's almost Phantom of the Opera-esque in a dark romantic sort of way. I could easily see her being tapped for a track or two on a future Delerium album if Fulber doesn't get her first for Conjure One. Whatever the future holds, it seems like a pretty secure one for Suicidal Romance, considering the quality of 'Shattered Heart Reflections'. Definitely a strong 'BUY'.
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Artist: Freakangel (@)
Title: The Faults of Humanity
Format: CD
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Alfa Matrix
Rated: *****
Not too long ago I was given the nod to review two albums that came from the same source, although not the same record label. The two bands, Freakangel and Suicidal Romance are both from Tallinn, Estonia, and share a key member ' Dimitry i., who on this album does vocals and seems to be the leader. What he does with Suicidal Romance we'll save for the next review. Although there are some dark-electro similarities between the two projects, Freakangel has the more aggressive style and Dimitry is definitely the vocal captain in this band. He is assisted by Art (ex-Kamaloka) on guitars, and frOzen (frontman of cB, aka Cyclone B) on keyboards. Also, these guys really seem to look the part; starkly goth-industrial at a time when most similar American bands just seem to be going with a nondescript look.

In the realm of dark-electro-industrial EBM music, it's hard to come up with anything that hasn't been done before. The style has been well-defined by the likes of Suicide Commando, Hocico, Funker Vogt, Leaether Strip, Wumpscut and so many others. Obvious comparisons to these bands are nearly pointless. So how does a band possibly stand out from the pack? Well, it ain't easy, but I have to give Freakangel credit for trying.

The opening prelude, 'Frailty,' on 'The Faults of Humanity' is a moderately slow industrial instrumental dirge with a bit a dramatic strings and crunchy percussion. That's followed by an old-school EBM style stomper called 'Gods Blind Game'. The synth riff sound is fairly standard and Dmitry's vocals are pretty much along the lines of Hocico, but perhaps a tad nastier. I have to say that it is catchy, and good dancefloor fodder. Rock solid guitar work by Art too. I like the triple-beat on the chorus; it adds a bit of character. There is also a cool bit of dark industrial ambience at the end. 'My Darling Bullet' is another straight ahead stomper but it has a couple of interesting things going for it- a sparsely interjected dialogue sample ('Do you want to die?') and smoothly gliding wordless female vocals, I'm guessing from Viktoria Seimar of Suicidal Romance. What a contrast, something really different in this kind of music.

'Crawling in the Dark' slows the pace down a bit and is plenty gloomy. Dimitry's vocals are no less malevolent though. Very gothy. 'The Last White Dance' picks up the pace again and frOzen's old-school analogue synth work is commendable. Nothing you haven't heard before, but well-done. 'Curse.Forgive.Kill.Cure' seems like it goes on for a little too long without anything of significance happening. 'Together Against It,' which follows is a little more sonically interesting, and also has a better chorus. 'It's Not a Lovesong' almost seemed like another piece of filler until the wordless female vocals saved it from being a fast train to nowhere. By the time I got to 'Price For All of Us' I realized there was little in the way of beat variation throughout most of the material. I don't think it's necessary to make them ALL dancefloor suitable. Some extended atmospherics and unusual beat-play would have been nice, but it is what it is. Since there really isn't any variation in Dimitry's vocals, some variation in the music would have been good. 'Under Code' carries on in a similar manner with nothing particularly outstanding. A little disappointing. 'Finale' is a brief atmospheric piece with wordless female voice, synth and piano, and no percussion. I would have rather have heard that expanded to five or six minutes and have skipped one or two of the lesser interesting tracks on the album. The band is to be commended though for not overusing dialogue samples, a flaw that a lot of dark electro-industrial bands succumb to.

Oh, 'The Faults of Humanity,' they are manifold, aren't they? For a debut album, this is still pretty good; not perfect, not great, but pretty good. Worth checking out. By the way, this album also comes in a 2 CD version (I only reviewed the 1 CD version) if you can't get enough Freakangel.

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Artist: Dandelion Wine (@)
Title: All Becompassed By Stars
Format: CD
Label: Ars Musica Diffundere/Black Rain (@)
Rated: *****
It seems the Australian band Dandelion Wine in the intent to modernize their sound (and in order to do it, they've chosen to get out of Australian exterminate boundaries and wisely move to Berlin where they organized a recording studio in a small apartment in Kreuzberg, surrounded by snow and ice during the last severe German winter) managed to translate ancient emotions into a simple but up-to-date musical language. Attaining to the most voluptuous side of electronic music as well as to the beatitude of ethnic (mainly sprayed with Middle Eastern and Arabic heady scents'¦) elements reminding me of Sufi tradition, Dandelion Wine sinters eastern and western themes and music , ethereal sounds and cranked electric guitar lines, unconventional acoustic instruments (whose impressively furnished stores include nice freaky rarities such as medieval lutes, dulcimer, sansula ' an instrument similar to the African marimbula - or the bell cittern ' a medieval 12-string sort of mandolin -) and contemporary machines (mainly recognizable analogue synths and big beating drum machines!) but above all gravitational pressures opposing soul raisings.

The swaying melodies and the subtle ethnic percussions of the title-track All Becompassed By Stars is going to set the stage by wrapping the listener in the emotive field you could perceive when staying in the middle of a desert surrounded by star-light spotted sky, whereas the electronic tentacles and the bizarre intertwining between a tribal percussion set and a march-like movement introducing Gravity ' a superbly mixed track! - seem to broke that dreamy flight by giving voice to somewhat mysterious gravitational pulls inspiring the moaning-like way of singing by Naomi Handerson and the roaring guitars by Nicholas Albanis! A snake-charming guitar riff reminding to me some guitar sample I heard in Juno Reactor's Shango introduces the intriguing mixture of eastern suggestions and electronic pop song's catch in Shards and it's nice the moment it turns into a sort of framework for the prog slides emerging up to the dust just before the song reaches its peak through an enjoyable pressing rhythm. The snake-charmer put temporarily away the guitar in order to play a flute to start the flaming electronic belly dance of Nowhere ' one of the catchiest track in my opinion! -, while Sidereal and Early Warning Sign ' an entrancing mournful ballad, perfectly interpreted by Naomi (which lacks of a certain dramatic grip in other passages of the record'¦) on a Spanish guitar melodic web, exploding in an energetic but plain goth-rock song structure, which stands as the better crafted track of the whole album ' could be considered as the highest emotional peaks (nearby those stars becompassing everything!) of this album even if both of them are quite plain and lack of woolly sound treatments. Dandelion Wine's rustic, but kind-hearted medieval vein strongly pulses in the sweet tapping of Orbit, a track introducing the last part of the part featuring a less intrusive presence of electronic buzzing devices, followed by the bittersweet lulling ballad of XVII containing the hypnotic sound of what seems a glockenspiel.

In Seven Times As Bright the twinkling voice of the stars weaves a crystalline and glassy melodic garland over the spectral vocal moaning by Naomi and the mystical breathe pervading the closing track, Seven Times As Bright, being the most abstract of this interesting release. It's quite difficult to give an exact definition of Dandelion Wine's style and even these Australian sorcerers usually make fun of a similar attempt by describing it as medieval trip-hop, but it's quite easy to recommend some listening to it even if they lack of the intellectual fervour distinguishing similar bands such as Dead Can Dance or Ataraxia and Naomi has not the same mystical eagerness of singers such as Natacha Atlas!
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