Music Reviews

Jan 17 2017
Artist: Cafeina Kid
Title: NEKO
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Pueblo Nuevo (@)
Deftly crafted IDM glitchno, Neko is sometimes Alvin and the Chipmunks on the slow-jam tip with glitch/IDM beats; other times it is deep, dubby techno that recalls Swayzak; it is the finer moments of Phonem and early Autechre but with sexy melodies and atmosphere sprinkled with chip-tune accents and more. The production notes on Neko indicate that the album started off as instrumental pieces subsequently cut-up into Franken-tracks, or perhaps the bride of Franken-tracks as they are nuttily put back together, but in a lovely way. Neko is rich in textures, from the instrumentals of the source material, to vocal samples that inhale helium balloons, then cut up and further distorted into Picasso-style fun, to drum machine rhythms accompanied by chip tune beats and lush keyboard melodies. Some stand-out tracks include “Conclusion parcial: cascada inversa”, “Estado del arte: Barco-Inercia”, and especially “Estado del arte: Kid Perro”. “Conclusion parcial: cascada inversa” is a heady bit of atmospheric electronic jazz that flows with the infatuation soaked dreaminess of a perfect date while “Estado del arte: Barco-Inercia” starts off with austere beats before the Swazak-esque dubby elements roll in like a romantic fog out of a classic movie while vestiges of vocals intermingle with spritely keyboard melodies. The golden track is “Estado del arte: Kid Perro” which is glitch-jazz with catchy bass lines, shimmering keyboard melodies, rich-layered rhythms and an overall mood of gradually unfurling euphoria that inspire repeated listens. Cafeina Kid is Pablo Cornejo, a Chilean artist who shows both his zany and charming side on a winsome album to be sure. Neko is available for free download on the Pueblo Nuevo net label in conjunction with who adhere to the Creative Commons ethos. Music this good shouldn't come this cheap, download today!
Artist: Pauline Oliveros + Musiques Nouvelles (@)
Title: Four Meditations / Sound Geometries
Format: CD
Label: Sub Rosa (@)
Rated: *****
2016 was not only the year that is going to be filed as the one when a series of pop rock iconic characters passed away, but this perpetual funeral oration was devoted to many legends of the avant-garde and erudite contemporary music scene (I could mention Jean-Claude Risset - one of the pioneers of computer music - or Tony Conrad), equally (and sometimes much more) important than particular mass phenomenon. One of the greatest and less famous (for the less erudite listeners, I mean) character of the contemporary music scene that recently died was Pauline Oliveros. She passed away on 25th November, but she kept on doing experiments till her last days, in particular on her favorite instrument, the accordion. Besides some interesting compositions, her most significant contribution to listeners are a couple of theories, which are also lessons on how to listen to music and sound: according to some reviewers, both the theory of "deep listening" - an expression that she used to name her project and her "band", by which she focused on the research of really bizarre performative spaces, such as cathedrals, caves, and underground cisterns - and the one on "sonic awareness" got partially influenced by the meeting with theoretical physicist and karate master Lester Ingber. The latter was soon turned into a sort of new system of music notation: according to Heidi Von Gunden, a musicologist who wrote an essay on Pauline Oliveros' sonic and musical research, sonic awareness was "a synthesis of the psychology of consciousness, the physiology of the martial arts, and the sociology of the feminist movement", whose way of processing aural information was based on attention and awareness, that got respectively represented by a dot and a circle by Oliveros in some compositions. Some of the above-sketched theories could help you better understanding this important release on Sub Rosa, including two long-lasting pieces. The first one, "Four Meditations for Orchestra", was composed between 1991 and 1997 and features vocalist Ione, who wonderfully interprets those reflections by using different languages and a dramatic vocal transpositions ranging between mournful moments, litany, raving ecstasy and onomatopoeia, while Belgian orchestra Musiques Nouvelles sets the sound by a seemingly disassembled technique, where the cohesion between elements got reached after each instrument seems to say something while the other ones prepares the ground, before amalgamating with Ione's voice. The second piece, "Sound Geometries (for Chamber Orchestra)", got recorded by means of Expanded Instrument System, a sort of platform to process sounds grabbed by microphones and channelling them into ten geometrical patterns, which were a kind of guided paths to move player's sounds in the sonic space through a 5.1 surround sound system. It's ideally divided into three movements: the first ones get somehow matched as you can listen how the patterns seem to lead the instrument from a vaguely organized layout to something similar to chaotic improvisation, both of them preceding the ascending choral effect reaching its acme and its higher voltage in the very last five minutes.
Artist: Great Waitress (@)
Title: Hue
Format: LP
Label: Another Dark Age (@)
Rated: *****
Isolated squeals, hanging screeching, single tones, mild pinches on strings - it sometimes remind the noise of a messy mountain of metallic junk slightly moved by breezes, differently elongated accordion whispers, creaking object or ligneous cracks that could let you think of an ongoing but almost gentle flaying of a wooden object, subtle alternation of shy stroking of higher keys of a piano or heavyweight lingering on lower ones, sinister swooping drones on grazed strings. All the enlisted elements would mean nothing by themselves, so that the primary activity of the Great Waitress, the project by Australian accordion player Monika Brookes and her fellow-countrywoman Laura Altman on clarinet together with German pianist Magda Mayas (names that some of our readers following electroacoustic improvisation on our zine could have met on some outputs by the appreciated Portuguese label Creative Sources, but theses girls individually made a plenty of important collaborations - including Joe Talia for Oren Ambarchi and The Necks'members Chris Abrahams and Tony Beck -), is setting the table by improvising some possible arrangements by means of different and mostly improvised criteria in order to inspire a narrative plot and feed listener's imagination. For instance, the first part of "Ribboning", one of the two long-lasting halves of 'Hue' made me imagine the cinematic representation of the phase of studying preceding a duel between Shaolin monks in the middle of a Japanese garden, which will never start. The general mood of the session turns into something else around the seventh minute: the first near-touch of the elements meet a rising pressure, which turns again into a sort of wanted stasis after three minutes. Likewise brain-stimulative, the way this trio performed in the second half, they wisely named "Pleats", whose slightly upsetting progression reaches the highest intensity when the rubbing on piano strings (I guess they made it so) generates a sound which evokes the one of an impending storm.
Artist: Phenotract
Title: It's All We Feel, Every Day
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Eric Shan’s long-running Phenotract monicker is an atmospheric, mostly gentle, ballad-skewed pop album well suited to a long steady road trip when there’s a synthpop fan in the car. Lush chords, simple lightweight rhythms, and an occasional strummed guitar taking a relative back seat, combine into a very smooth listen that’s like taking a warm unchallenging bath in songs.

There’s a generally languid feeling throughout, in many ways. There’s the relatively slow, sustained vocal style. There’s the dreamy philosophical lyrics concerned with “fleeting moments”, the sky, and plenty of swimming. There’s the casual pace of instrumentals like “Leap From The Top” and the slightly Vangelis-ish “Path Home Again”. Tracks like “Rivers”, one of the strongest numbers, have hints of what Stone Roses would’ve sounded like if they’d decided to be a synthpop band. All the tracks approach or pass the five-minute mark, taking the normal intro-verse-chorus structure and stepping through it without any urgency and with relatively few surprises.

Kathleen Gauder’s additional vocals on two of the tracks really add some polish and compliment Eric’s vocal very well. On the strength of those appearances she should be enlisted as a full member of the ‘band’.

It’s certainly well-produced. If I had to be picky I’d say it’s quirkily mixed in parts, with the more electronic touches slightly buried at points, and tracks like “Souls Intact” dipping the vocal level too low in a way that singers mixing their own performances quite often seem to do, but apart from little quibbles like that, it’s got a rich professional sound to it. It’s a comforting and slightly cathartic way to spend just shy of an hour.
Artist: Andrew Pekler (@)
Title: Tristes Tropiques
Format: LP
Label: Faitiche (@)
Rated: *****
One of those artists I appreciated a lot when they started their discography that I had no news about is Andrew Pekler. I admit I still like listening to its debut "Station To Station" (2002), the debut he signed for ~scape, the label by Stefan Beltke (better known as Pole) through which my ears firstly met Jan Jelinek's sound as well. It's pretty nice to see Andrew's return on Jan's imprint Faitiche many years after I got reached by their sonorities almost at the same time, even if Andrew's signature for Faitiche already appeared as the director of "Sonne = Blackbox", the amazing collection of stuff by Ursula Bogner, an unknown German pharmacist, musician and housewife, whose fantastic music was published posthumously after Jan met his son by chance (don't understate a John Doe delivering your letters or the flyers of some poisoning new BBQ or pizza parlors, as you should expect the unexpected by pretty unknown people...). An explanatory interview to Andrew by Jan got attached to the introduction and within the booklet of this release, whose main interesting aspect is the way by which Andrew declensed the concept of 'exotica' - an 'umbrella' label to define the style that begun spreading in the late 50ies by the integration of exotic elements, which was mostly related to that "ersatz tropicalism" that persuaded many composers to combine lush orchestration and instruments from Far East, Oceania, Polynesia or Hawaii. A quotation by French anthropologist and structuralist philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss's 'Tristes tropiques' - a multidisciplinary essay/memoir, embodying the 'detached vision' of tropical places (mostly Brasil in this travelogue) by an anthropologist searching connection between seemingly distant cultures - is the framework of Andrew's sonic artifact: "For mile after mile the same melodic phrase rose up in my memory. I simply couldn’t get free of it. Each time it had a new fascination for me. Initially imprecise in outline, it seemed to become more and more intricately woven, as if to conceal from the listener how eventually it would end. The weaving and reweaving became so complicated that one wondered how it could be unravelled; and then suddenly one note would resolve the whole problem, and the solution would seem yet more audacious than the procedures which had preceded, called for, and made possible its arrival; when it was heard, all that had gone before took on new meaning, and the quest, which had seemed arbitrary, was seen to have prepared the way for this undreamed-of solution. Was that what travel meant? An exploration of the deserts of memory, rather than those around me?". Andrew seems to push the boundaries of this detachment by a bizarre and very nice choice: besides reviewing the genre by micro-electronic patterns, chirping tunes and sonic hooks that sound tropical, the eight tracks (some of them actually group different tracks together) got often grasped by totally fake field recordings so that it seems to render the funhouse mirror-like artificiality of that exotic distorted vision without substantially altering its inner fascination. In Andrew's words: "As a listener and as a musician, exotica music of the 1950s and 60s has always been a constant reference point and inspiration. And perhaps my listening has been ‘ruined’ by exotica, but as I have dug deeper into ethnographic archives of ‘traditional’ music, I’ve come to the realization that all recordings that evoke, allude to, or ostensibly document other musical forms have a similar effect on my imagination: I am most intrigued when I perceive some coincidentally familiar element within the foreign (a tuned percussion recital from Malawi that immediately brings to mind Steve Reichian minimalism or the Burundian female vocal duet that sounds uncannily like a cut-up tape experiment, etc.). I suppose this album is an attempt to recreate the same kind of listening experience as what I’ve described, just with the electronic means that I have at hand". The "sadness" (if we have to quote album title) of Andrew's tropicalism could be something closer to the awareness of a justifiably depressed clerk after a trip in some 'wild' place after the impact against the common rites of its ordinary "life".
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