Music Reviews



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Artist: Darshan Ambient (@)
Title: A Day Like Any Other
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'A Day Like Any Other' is the 11th album by Michael Allison who is Darshan Ambient. In spite of the rather bland title Allison creates 11 tracks that are thematically simple but richly arranged and somewhat atypical of ambient music. In fact, this falls into the "melambient" sub-genre for the most part, where a definite melody overrides the atmosphere. First track, "City Of The Seven Hymns" doesn't bring to mind any city or hymns, but does kind of sound like a train ride through the Midwest with its chugging rhythm, and slidey guitar mimicking a pedal steel. "Ah! Sunflower" is the most adventurous piece on the album with a rich, repeating Marcato string section giving the piece a playful momentum. It almost sounds like orchestral prog-rock. Elsewhere there are dreamy woozy pieces that lull you into a soporific state; nice little semi-ambient interludes in the vein of Mike Oldfield vs. William Orbit; shimmering sleepy guitars mixed with synth voices ("LightFighter"); and a piece ("Shadow Lines") that recalls the Eno/Brook/Lanois 'Hybrid' collaboration. Some of this has a Boards of Canada feel, so if that's the kind of ambient you're into, you may very well enjoy 'A Day Like Any Other.' The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the repetitive guitar loop used on "The Rain Has Flown" as well as the title track (which reminded me a bit of the guitar on the Nilsson version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'"), a small quibble compared to the whole. If you're looking for strictly minimal ambient music, you'll have to look elsewhere, but if a pleasant, low-key kinda drifty musical excursion is what you're after, this will hit the spot.
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Artist: Jan St. Werner
Title: Molocular Meditation
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Editions Mego
I’m just going to come out and say this. Mark E. Smith is posthumously revered as a kind of post-punk counter-culture icon, but I just don’t “get it”. His train-of-thought, beat poetry-esque narratives have somehow never connected with me. I’ve heard others say the same about Karl Hyde’s lyrics (which as it happens I do appreciate), but for me, it’s Mark E. Smith whose word salad doesn’t connect or inspire. It’s entirely subjective, but I’ve got to put this out there first and face the inevitable wrath from those for whom his work had more power.

“Molecular Meditation” is a selection of Smith’s spoken-word work set to a dense, thick, experimental analogue electronic backdrop from Jan St. Werner, whose work I only know from the typically more structured Mouse On Mars. The words are front and centre, but there are hiatus points where the music speaks alone. It’s extremely scene-driven, with a series of rapidly varying electronic noise arrangements that jump and shift spontaneously and with urgency, rather than with any gradual evolution. In that way, it’s quite theatrical, adding to the sense of jazz beat poetry translated into electronica. Smith is the ringmaster, and it’s the electronics, rather than the jazz musicians, that react in a manner that feels improvised, driven by the varying levels of despair or fury in Smith’s voice.

It was originally performed in 2014, before Smith’s death, and has now been reworked in undisclosed ways. The twenty minute title track is the ‘original’, and it’s supplemented by three unreleased tracks that were recorded around the same time. Both “Back To Animals” and “VS Cancelled” feature more of Smith, and are urgent, angry, distorted, sweary, and compact compared to the main track, but act as interesting adjuncts.

Of the extra tracks, the standout is “On The Infinite Of Universe And Worlds”, a twelve minute ‘electronic opera’ piece based on Giordano Bruno’s Renaissance writings which Werner was asked to conceptualize for a Finnish new music festival. It’s a showcase track and an excellent tutorial on how to make rough-edged electronics feel more expressive, meaningful and emotive than most word choices.

For me, it’s the electronica that shines here. The dense but measured noise frenzy that opens “Back To Animals” is more to my taste than some of the looser, lazier, more drunken-sounding sections. So forgive me if you don’t agree, but I’m afraid I would find this album a more interesting listen if it were stripped of some or all of Smith’s monologuing, the extremely awkward mock-American accent, the talking about killing magpies with detergent, the bitter (bordering on childish) mocking and exposition of a fairly polite email cancelling a music project, and so on.
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Artist: Angst78 (@)
Title: 78-Angst
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
Angst78 is a collaboration between Patryk Ggniewicz (Revisq) and Lukasz Szalankiewicz (Zenial) and this release is naïvely presented as a compilation of tracks composed between 2013 and 2019. As neither Revisq nor Zenial has recorded in the same cities, it's rather obvious that the collaboration is internet based, so it's not taken for granted that this release could sound as a cohesive whole.
As the first track starts the listener is introduced into a sort of techno ambient vaguely reminiscent of '90s ambient-house at least by the wide sound and the catchy melodic lines. As the album advances, apart from episodic incursion towards IDM territories the structure is so clearly defined that even the three remixes of this release, Fisherboyz. Dawid Chrapla and Dominik ochowski, sound like regular tracks. This is due to a musical form (a dancey beat, a catchy line of synth and elaborate textures) that doesn't need particular tricks if the balance is carefully set.
Somebody could argue that this release is another in an infinite series, and he forgets that this is not a matter of innovation but of craft i.e., how to sound new using an old form. This is a remarkable example of this task. Recommended for fans of the genre.
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Artist: Inabile Caos
Title: 1.0
Format: CD + Download
Label: Essentia Mundi (@)
Rated: *****
1.0 by Inabile Caos is the project of Davide Denvito and this debut release, 1.0, is fucking fantastic. A unique sounding endeavor covering a lot of sonic ground but I was immediately hit with the same great vibes I get when listening to bands like Earth, Bohren and der Club of Gore, The Dale Cooper Quartet, Godflesh and other great acts pounding out chill drones and metal textures and cascades. If reading any of those band names perks an eyebrow… then grab this record immediately. It’s hitting all the right places. Stand out tracks: 1.4.1 really surges from heavy heavy to super sparse and chill. It’s a good journey. 1.5 is probably my favorite. The Twang of western flavored guitars drifting around in lost in time landscapes while the man with no name is dodging bullet snares and rimshots.
Feb 13 2020
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Artist: MHYSA
Title: Nevaeh
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Hyperdub
“Neveah” (heaven backwards) is New York-based Mhysa’s second album, and her first for Hyperdub. It’s a good fit for the label sonically, with its combination of glitchy, complex electronica beat work, quirky sounds, downtempo attitude and slight swagger feeling right at home. It’s been labelled as R&B, but that’s a bit of a stretch, and lyrically there’s some validity in that but this is much more ‘out there’, on the outer boundaries of post-dubstep.

Tracks typical of this sound include a fascinatingly edgy resonance of “Sad Slutty Baby Wants More For The World”, a deep atmospheric electronica piece which almost overwhelms itself with feedback. “Breaker Of Chains” sounds like trip-hop that’s been stripped back to barely an acapella and some found sounds, while “Sanaa Lathan” is a more fully-rounded lo-fi rap vibe compared to the less-is-more approach of most of the other tracks. Incidentally “Sanaa Lathan” and “Brand Nu” play back-to-back in a single YouTube video that embodies well the flavour of sexuality and attitude of these tracks.

It’s in the more vocal-heavy and lyric-heavy tracks that the challenge lies. Mhysa’s expression here lays everything on the line, her passions and insecurities, with very little filter (and plenty of swears and sexual references). Although vocally strong on some tracks, like the seemingly frustrated “W Me”, there’s a fragility and full-on weakness in tracks like “Before The World Ends” which isn’t going to win any singing competitions but will grab a lot of attention for its honesty that borders on vulnerability.

There are 18 tracks but many of these are skits or thirty-second sketches that border on genuinely random, ranging from an unexpected acapella of “When The Saints Go Marching In” that preludes the more complete version at the end, to the downright odd “Na Na Drift”. Instrumental items like the two minutes of “Honey, Sweetie, Baby” hint at a whole other, deeper more extensive electronica album that might be inside Mhysa itching to get out.

It’s a refreshingly experimental and personal work that really speaks volumes of Mhysa’s character and vibe, complemented by measured and sympathetic electronica work. The odder aspects and unusual album structure will be off-putting to more casual listeners, but if you’re looking for a bold musical expression of wallowing in isolation and insecurity- particularly around the Valentines’ Day release date- then this is both an unusual and very deep dive in that direction.
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