Music Reviews



Nov 08 2018
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Artist: Bonaventure
Title: Mentor
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Planet Mu
Soroya Lutangu’s first EP on Planet Mu is a strong introduction. Across six tracks, the Swiss/Congolese producer blends rhythms and samples from across cultures, generally setting patterns out onto relatively straightforward 4/4 electronica beds but layering them up with more complex patterns and unusual melodic loops that make it one of those rare releases that will work an open-minded dancefloor but still play perfectly for home listening.

After the bold, quite action-movie-ish drama and gutpunchers of opener “Physarum”, “Mentor” is one of the thumpers and a really positive drive to it, while “Nemesis” is an example of the more broken-beat and unpredictable approach that I’d stereotypically label as more ‘Planet Mu-esque’

“Colony” is thoroughly atmospheric chin-stroking grime while “Impetus” has hints of both trap and techno as well, but always maintaining a breadth and character that make it sound not quite like anything else. Final track “Both” is notable for its looped poetry from Hannah Black, an attention-grabbing brooding track that’s a highlight that could’ve been the opener.

With only one track reaching the four-minute mark, it does perhaps feel more like a sampler or a calling card than a fully formed half-album, leaving you wanting more and wishing that some tracks had been explored in more depth- but what a calling card it is, here’s hoping there’s more to come.
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Artist: Adam Basanta
Title: Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Kasuga Records
“Intricate Connections Formed Without Touch” is a six-track work supposedly built entirely from a single acoustic guitar improvisation, but which has been “cut, sliced, re-arranged and folded-over” with a diverse range of digital processing to bend it firmly into the territory of digital electronica. Where some of the audible reportage-like spoken-word elements, other more vocal noises and some rich pad-like atmospherics come from isn’t disclosed, so people appreciating the purity of the concept may feel a little cheated.

There’s a bit of everything in the processing- reverb, reverse, glitch, bend, stretch, the works, and at times it feels more like a playful experiment with digital audio tools than something with compositional intent. However there are other points where it’s a clear success- “Flora & Fauna” being an example, its gentle icy plucked tones seeding an encapsulating and rather sci-fi environment, and the more frantic stuttering “Joy”, which initially has echoes of BT’s granular synthesis work but ripped out of its EDM context before unfolding into something rather cinematic, is quite compelling as well. Final ‘proper’ track “Extension Out” turns simplicity into a virtue by centring around an intriguing deep pulse and drone that you could happily get lost in.

It’s rounded off (or filled out, perhaps) by a remix of “Flora & Fauna” by Kai Basanta- presumably a relation of Adam’s, though this is also undisclosed. It’s a straightforward ten-minute bit of downtempo thoughtful electronica with some soft organic padded rhythms. It compliments the original track but which doesn’t necessarily meld as a coherent piece of the main album.

It’s a smooth listen, pleasant and full of interesting details but not particularly ground-breaking.

It’s available as an SD card or as a download, but at the time of writing ChainDLK’s format options don’t include SD card as something I can select, hence it being displayed as download-only.
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Artist: Michele Mercure
Title: Beside Herself
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: RVNG Intl. / Freedom To Spend
“Beside Herself” is a 19-track, 66-minute anthology of material taken from Michele Mercure’s self-produced and distributed cassettes released between 1983 and 1990 from her base in Pennsylvania (until divorcing in 1987, some were released under the name Michelle Musser).

It’s a collection of almost wholly instrumental experimental electronic vignettes, with one foot decidedly in the world of lo-fi 80’s synth pop but the other foot pointed outwards into more esoteric and avantgarde directions.

It’s one of those works that inspires a lot of comparisons to other artists, which is not to take anything away from its originality or the uniqueness of its character. “Beginning” sounds like a mid 80’s Nik Kershaw instrumental, and not in a bad way, while “An Accident Waiting To Happen” with its sampled car noises and sharp noisy percussion has more than a shade of The Art Of Noise about it, albeit with the sound quality of a homespun demo rather than a Trevor Horn-produced master. “De Dunk” is an oddly squelchy bit bit of slow-grooved weirdness that sounds like one of the more out-there moments from the early days of library music.

Thanks to some warm bass guitar work, there’s a decided downtempo funk aspect in parts, the title track for example feeling like it could have soundtracked a night-time stakeout in a big-hair cop show. “Mother” is a nicely quirky bit of synth work with an almost lullaby-like quality to it.

Mercure’s breakthrough material is certainly worthy of some re-appraisal, though the demo-like sound quality and production techniques root it firmly in its original decade. Fans of the edgier and more experimental edges of the early days of the 80’s synth explosion will find a lot of merit in this.
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Artist: Jana Winderen
Title: Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
Layering high-latitude field recordings of the border between sea ice and the open sea into one found sound composition, this is an elegant work with a lot of fascinating detail. While there’s underwater seal and whale sounds (mostly faint), it’s never in danger of becoming a relaxation cliché, mainly thanks to the crisp and almost electronica-like noises of the ice itself, which are gentle but still slightly alienating, and which ebb alternatively with windier, quite barren sounds.

There’s a 37-minute “headphones mix” and a 35-minute “speakers mix”. I didn’t compare or side-by-side them, instead being perfectly happy with a 72-minute listening experience that didn’t overstay its welcome.

It’s framed in terms of marine science and ecology rather than art, nevertheless it’s a beautiful thing to listen to, toeing an unusual line between emptiness and grandeur that really draws you in.
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Artist: Jeton Hoxha
Title: Vowel
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eighth Tower Records (@)
Rated: *****
Already included in the "Balkan experimental survey". Jeton Hoxha is Macedonian composer mainly interested in an electro-acoustic music based on field recordings and drones heavily processed to generate a blurry overall sound. This is apparently his first full length release and seems mostly influenced by a current of ambient called 'isolationism'.
"Vowel" is a lengthy composition starting with a low frequency drone at the threshold of audibility in an unquiet environment which is slowly juxtaposed to other drones obtaining a developments in dynamics and frequency. As a wider spectrum drone is added, a thicker sound mass surround the listener as a musical fog illuminated by sharp insertions. As this part stars to fade, the last drone of the first part, the higher frequency one, returns and introduces an industrial oriented section based on loops which create a suspended, and hypnotic, atmosphere which becomes meditative as bells appears. Then, there's a section based on loops over a sharp drone slightly pulsating. As elements of the previous sections appear, there's a sense not only of time passing but also that there's an aspect of memory of the listener involved in the writing of the track. As the elements of the track starts to be sequentially eliminated hinting at a final silence, there's a section focused on church's bells which introduces a final slow melody played on organ synth which closes the release leaving the listener with a background noise moving in the aural field.
Due to its length, this is a demanding listening which is also fully enjoyable only in a quiet environment as the particular spectrum, especially in the first part, can be easily masked by the everyday background noise; however, in its apparent opacity, the composition is developed in a linear way which captures the listener's attention which is not taken for granted in a genre plagued with boredom. Listen with care.
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