Music Reviews



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Artist: Seven that Spells (@)
Title: Cosmoerotic Dialogue With Lucifer
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
Seven that Spells is a band from Croatia that bills itself as "an international commune of psychedelic likeminds exploring the multifaceted cosmos of freak out music and naked women in high hopes of achieving Buddha’s blessing!" All I know is that after listening to the mellow Aritomo CD that Beta-lactam Ring included in the same package, this one was like shifting gears without a clutch – but in a good way. Imagine if Frank Zappa and Sun Ra had a love child that hung out with Nel Cline and Thurston Moore. That love child would play music that sounds a lot like Seven that Spells. The opening track, "Cosmoerotic Giveaway" opens the disc by unloading with both barrels. Although it may just sound like random noise from guitars, it is actually well crafted and has an internal structure that holds it together. "Stara Planina (slight return)" demonstrates that they are not just a bunch of guys who all want to play different guitar solos at once. The track opens with a metal riff that repeats until it dissolves into a peaceful soundscape, only to be destroyed by the noisy guitars once more. "Return Of The Captain Beefstake's Love Apparatus" sounds like a slowed down version of their previous tracks with some ethereal vocals that are almost drowned out by the feedback drenched guitars. "Space Of Eights" is the shortest track on the disc, weighing in at 2.16, and almost has a surf feel. The closest thing I can compare it to is the psychobilly sounds of the Reverend Horton Heat. This track is a lot of fun. "Cookies & Milk / Breakfast With Azrael" takes on a similar feel to "Stara Planina" mixing droning guitars with angelic voice that drones along with the guitar. There seem to be no words in particularthe voice is just another brick in the wall of noise. "Torture Vessel From The Triangle World" is another long track at 13.55, which begins with a completely different feel. It slowly builds, focusing on atmosphere rather than an all out assault, and progressively disintegrates into a boiling stew of feedback and noise but never really unloads. This track must have taken a lot of restraint after the previous tracks! This is for me the best track on the album. I think that this band would put on an absolutely kick ass live show and I would be surprised if all of the instruments made it out in one piece. You can find samples on both the label’s website and on the band’s website, and you certainly should check it out. If Motörhead is too slow and mellow for you, this is for you. And as far as the cover art is concerned, they weren’t kidding about the naked women. First edition of 600 comes in a full color custom made book bound CD case. This disc weighs in at 50 minutes.
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Artist: Kawabata Makoto & Michishita Shinsuke (@)
Title: Sex,Voyage,and Echo Chamber
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
This is a collaboration between Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mothers Temple and Michishita Shinsuke of LSD March. Here’s how the label describes this disc: "The reigning lords of the new psychedelic church cross guitars for a super-electric cosmic jam that causes even hurricanes to don ear plugs. More like the paintings of crazed banshees than songs, this shape-shifting set’s loud-quiet-loud transforms the spaciousness of the axe duel into a growling canvas of thunder. Walls of feedback and distortion moan like sinking U-boats." Fair enough - file this under guitar noise / improvisation. The album consists of four long tracks, the shortest of which is "Point to Point," which weighs in at 10.30, and the longest of which is "Rome 9," at 17.42. The disc opens a bit slowly with "Me and Bitter, Psychedelic Tokyo," and I have to admit that I was not terribly into it at the beginning, but it eventually builds to a satisfying maelstrom of guitar noise. "Queen No. 5" behaves like two different tracks, ending a little over halfway through and then starting up again in much the same vein. "Point to Point" is a mixture of jangly chords which are struck on and off the beat seemingly at random while the other guitarist plays over it until it just kind of ends up in noodling. I must admit that this track didn’t really do much for me. "Rome 9" is a long track of wailing guitar and toward the end a lot of high pitched feedback. To me, this track was the best on the disc, because it had a nice texture and I like my noise to be of the solid wall variety. Maybe it’s just me, but this wasn’t really my bag. It isn’t just because I am not a huge fan of guitar noise – after all, I thought that Seven that Spells’ "Cosmoerotic Dialogue With Lucifer" was a great time. I think that what is missing here is some sense of purpose. This album doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and for the most part it begins to all sound the same. Luckily for you the reader, there are samples up at the label’s website so you can see if it really is just a matter of accounting for taste. This disc weighs in at 56 minutes and comes enclosed in a book bound CD case.
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Artist: Aritomo
Title: Kowai Komorebi
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Aritomo is yet another artist I had not heard of, but for good reason. It seems that his earlier releases were issued mainly in small edition vinyl. Here’s how the label describes this album: "Aritomo's fragile debut release may just out-psych the freak folk patrol, however, with subtlety. . . . There is an almost naive quality to the way Aritomo's whisper of a voice plays out against his softly lolling acoustic guitar chords. The resulting atmospheres wink at the quietudes of Nick Drake or Ryusuke Seto, though Aritomo is clearly coming from a place all his own. Simplicity is the key stone with Aritomo. His technique slithers between standard chord progressions and more organized Jandekian dissonances." However, I think that Aritomo himself sums it up nicely when he states for his influences: "I like beautiful voice." Certainly, if Hyperium were still doing the "Heavenly Voices" compilations, this album would be right at home. His voice lilts over the acoustic guitar providing more atmosphere than meaning. In fact, the voice is the central element of the music, with the guitar being strummed mainly as a way to keep the music structured. In short, the main feeling that Aritomo seems to be going for is peacefulness, but there are moments of dissonance that keep the music interesting. For example, on "Fearful sunshine filtering through foliages," there is a recorder or flute that is playing a bit stridently, but not enough to make it unpleasantmore as a way to add depth. And it is not all just guitar and voice – "Hakanairo," incorporates some light hand percussion and "In the white shadow which the lily drops" uses the flute to complement the guitar rather than antagonize it. If you are looking for a comparison, the main one that comes to mind is some of Current 93’s more acoustic work like "Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre," but not quite as structured and much more sparse. This album has an ethereal quality that makes it seem like someone has broken down music into its component molecules and transformed it from a solid to a gaseous state. If this sounds interesting, there are samples on the label’s website and on his myspace page. The first edition of 500 is housed in a custom made book bound sleeve and printed inner sleeve and the first 25 copies include an original drawing by Aritomo (which I assume are long gone by now). This disc weighs in at 40 minutes and there are 10 tracks on this disc, but only 9 are listed.
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Artist: CJ Boyd Sexxxtet (@)
Title: Fleur du Mal
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Like many of the discs I review for ChainDLK, I had not heard of the CJ Boyd Sexxxtet. However, with the cover art featuring people holding string instruments and the credits listing people who played not only cello and double bass, but also singing bowls saw, and trumpet, I had an idea of what I was getting in to, expecting something along the lines of Kronos Quartet. The website describes it as "Music for the bacchanal" and an "orgy of sound" that is "at the same time passionate and pensive, sensual and meditative." Here’s how the label describes the disc: "Fleur Du Mal's’ transcendental mixture of high-lonesome and chamber classicism soundtracks a bit like The Assignation of Andrew Poppy by the Minimalist Terry Riley. . . . The compositions chunk along with quiet thunder and building textures; juxtaposing dramatic tension against fluid looseness, not unlike some of Moondog's more formal string works." Neoclassical music is hard to describe. Luckily, there are samples on both the artist’s and the label’s websites. This album consists of three longer tracks, ranging from 15.40 to 19.12. Overall, this is peaceful string chamber music that really doesn’t push the envelope like Kronos Quartet, but it is pleasant listening. Perhaps my favorite part of this album is the sheer lack of violin. I much prefer the lower register and am not a huge fan of violin music, even when done well. This gives the compositions a kind of warmness that I often find lacking in sting ensembles. The first track, "At the End of Breath" combines staccato rhythms with long drones that seem pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle, over which members seem to take turns performing as soloist. "Here’s to Thanatos" has a bit more of a tribal feel compliments of the percussion, which then melts into a legato section with muted trumpet, seeming more like two different tracks. "And Indeed There Will Be Time" begins interesting enough with percussion and strings in a syncopated staccato rhythm and electric guitar and bass. Halfway through the band breaks into chanting in some language that I cannot place while a minimal rhythm is played on one of the instruments. This eventually becomes more involved, but I must admit that the chanting began to get boring after 5 minutes. Overall, this is pleasant stuff, but not really too experimental. I could see this being played at any of the nicer concert halls across the country, but looking at where they have played, this is unfortunately not the case. This is a very skilled ensemble and I’m sure they would be quite a nice experience live. The first edition of 600 copies comes in a custom made full color book bound cd case. The disc weighs in at 53 minutes.
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Artist: Brunnen
Title: Swoon
Format: CD
Label: Beta-lactam Ring Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had not heard of Brunnen, but I had certainly heard of Freek Kinkelaar’s other project, Beequeen. Evidently, this was originally released in 1993 in a vinyl edition of 215 copies. Most of this was recorded between 1991-1993 and some of the tracks were featured elsewhere (According to the website, tracks 13-14 were part of the EP single "The Honey Button," track 12 is a previously unreleased track from the "Swoon" LP sessions, and track 15 was found hiding on top of a shelf and suitably dusted off). The info sheet that came with the disc describes the album thus: "Swoon features a series of hushed songs of love and lust with a twist played on his trusty (and now long retired) Ensonic keyboard." For once, I completely agree with the promo package. This is really soothing music. The singer’s voice sounds like a cross between Tim Freeman of Frazier Chorus and Edward Ka-Spel of the Legendary Pink Dots, which makes it all the more peaceful sounding. Kinkelaar does not so much sing as speak in a sing-song kind of way. As such, the album has the feeling of a long lullaby. There are the occasional noisy elements that get thrown in. For example, "Forever in White" has just a bit of feedback that imposes on the slow moving warm synth washes that play over soft singing and "Hattrick" incorporates bird song into the music. "The Wolf Hour" sounds like the voice was done with appletalk, but it doesn’t really seem out of place. These are the sounds of a dreamlike carnival, and you can check out samples at the label’s website. Some reissues are not really welcome, but Beta-lactam Ring Records picked a gem to bring out of obscurity. This is limited to 300 numbered copies, so if you want it, you’ll want to act fast. The album weighs in at about 44 minutes.
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