Music Reviews



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Artist: Glaukom Synod
Title: Vampires and Gorgeous Throats
Format: Tape
Label: Visceral Circuitry Records (@)
Rated: *****
This French harsh electro-industrial project has been around since at least 2005 with a bunch of releases prior to this one that of course, I've never heard. 'Vampires and Gorgeous Throats' is a 7-track EP because the tracks are all so short. What it is, is absolutely manic-panic synth and drum programming with as lot of sampling thrown in for good measure. It's all instrumental, as the only "vocals" are the infrequent spoken word samples. They are used infrequently, except for the archetypal "Tarzan yell," which forms the basis for "Jungle glaukom fever" as the sample is multiplied and heaped layer upon layer in this one. It's all too much and gives the music a cartoony ambience. In fact, many of the tracks on the EP sound cartoon industrial. Although there were a few breaks from the breakneck pacing, it was all a little much for me, and seemed like pointless hardcore at many times. Those who like their industrial rhythms spit out from a machine gun might enjoy it, but I'm not sure you'll be able to listen to it seriously, especially now that I've labeled it "cartoon crazy". Available on cassette or digital download.
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Artist: Chalung-Gra (@)
Title: Mostaferi
Format: CD + Download
Label: Facthedral's Hall (@)
Rated: *****
This French dark ambient industrial project comes courtesy of Le K. (Marc Reina), active since 2005. You might know him from bands he was involved in such as Sizzle, and Velvetine. Well, Chalung-Gra is nothing like them. 'Mostaferi' was recorded on a Tascam 4-track cassette machine (remember them? I used one in the '80s, good for putting down ideas on the fly) but mixed and mastered digitally by SomniaK. 'Mostaferi' is deep dark ambient, full of cavernous, subterranean drones in places the light just does not penetrate. Somewhat reminiscent of Lustmord in its density and intensity, these are regions best left to the experienced psychonaut to explore. While there is nothing that particularly distinguishes this sonically in the genre, there is a vastness about it that hides subtle elements that may be overlooked the first time around. Worth a listen for dark ambient fans.
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Artist: Haco
Title: Qoosui
Format: CD + Download
Label: Someone Good
Accompanied by flowery text talking of heaven, water spirits, princesses, waterfalls, forest glades and a catfish with erotic powers (seriously), and then discusses CD-R drives, electromagnetic waves and cyborgs, the musical product of “Qoosui” is not as metaphorically schizophrenic as its marketing materials.

What it is, in practice, is a gently spaced-out collection of slow, super-soft melodic dreampop accompanied by subtle acoustic (or acoustic-ish) instrumentation, warm glittery synth chords, somewhat cliché environmental sounds such as running water and birdsong, and the occasional semi-rhythmic interjection from the sampled familiar sounds of modern domestic electronics. The result is a languid, indulgent warm sonic bathing experience, all steeped i soft echo.

Among the seven tracks, all at least six minutes long, are the soothing waves of “Tidal”, nicely juxtaposed with some soft squealing electronic bleeps that have a real sense of character- that one’s available on Vimeo and gives a very indicative flavour of the whole album (it’s also the instant gratification track on Bandcamp for the pre-order). “Circle” has a slightly more church-like and reverential tone, with warm drones and a soundscape that sounds more like a broad interior. “Anaesthesia Love” adds a subtly discordant, faintly unsettling chord pattern is it progresses, reminiscent of not wanting to wake up.

Not every track shimmers with the same beauty, not quite anyway. For example “Seiren” is a weak point, a slightly half-baked ballad which doesn’t glisten quite as well as the tracks around it.

Whether the recording of a CD-R drive with a contact microphone really represents the channeling of spirit voices as the press release suggests, I’m too cynical. But if Matthew Herbert made super-lazy dreampop, or if The Orb were feeling even more mellow than they’ve ever been (there’s a hint of Aki Omori about the vocal), then it might sound a little like this, and that is certainly a compliment.
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Artist: Phase Conductor (@)
Title: Conditions
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Chinese calligraphy masters take years to cultivate their art form to the point that they draw characters with one stroke and a minimum of revision, if any. Mike Matheson, who for years produced as Beef Terminal, has reached a kind of mastery where his tracks are now casual yet masterful strokes. Matheson created a world of brooding yet melodic guitar over drum machine beats, liberally seasoned with field recordings of rambling inebriated party attendees, religious sermon culled from the radio and captured conversations from mobile phones that still used analog signals. Beef Terminal tended to have darker overtones, melancholic instrumental drama, and at times a kind of anxious solitude, yet within all this is also its beauty and strength. The Beef Terminal was always able to evoke emotions felt long after the disc played and Conditions is no exception. I would go so far as to call it the missing album. In some ways, Conditions is more low-fi than Matheson’s previous efforts with discernible tape saturation, cable hiss, equipment hums, with the exception of 20GOTO10 (2000), his debit solo album. A point of departure is how varied Conditions sounds. Tracks like “Fourth” and “Long Ride” could have been outtakes off of Further or New Lands by Flying Saucer Attack and all that is missing are the haunting vocals of Rachel Brook or David Pearce. FSA are not so much influences as descriptive touch stones, though the two projects share similar approaches to recording. In the early days, FSA would record onto VHS tape via home stereo whereas Matheson records onto cassette, as he elaborates, “I did much of this album outside the computer, or if I started in the computer I would output it usually to my SP404 or OP-1 and use on-board filters there, which is where some of the hiss came from but for a lot of tracks I bounced them to cassette. Besides that I spent most of last year just making these songs with no real plans to release them or anything but once I got them together I enjoyed listening to them so I thought it might make a good “album”. Basically the criteria for music making for me in 2016 was that it had to feel good doing it, and doing things on computer had become so boring and sterile I had to come up with some other ways to do things, which I’ve done and now I’ve continued making tunes this way and have been far more prolific than ever, working super fast, barely any overdubs or editing, I just do these tracks and move on. Sort of how I did 20 GOTO 10 actually. Way more enjoyable.” Indeed, much of Matheson’s work is immersed in the glitch in ways that would do early Aphex Twin proud with “Pooling”, Rplanet”, and “RCA” which are more ambient excursions that recall Selected Ambient Works Vol 2. That is not to say that all of conditions is low-fi, as “Rounded”, “Sorting”, and “Sorting 2” come off as more crisp electronic ambient productions. A personal favourite is “Discleaves” for it’s 90’s-era melodic electronica feel more at home in a Warp or Delsin records retro-compilation. “Backlook” is firmly in early Beef Terminal territory with fragments of audio sample’s from 2003’s The Isolationist and could be an outtake, even. Mathesons’ artistry is certainly there, though somewhat curious, if we follow the calligrapher analogy, that he picks more worn parchment as his medium, so to speak. But that is Matheson’s aesthetic where he fully understands the production rules and breaks it to make his melancholic musical statements that have all the charm of faded and aged photographs or film, emotional fragments that encapsulates memory.
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Artist: Tony Buck
Title: Unearth
Format: CD + Download
Label: Room40
Berlin-based composer and drummer Tony Buck’s first solo release in well over a decade, “Unearth” is a single 51-minute track of thickly layered wind sounds, swelling drones, sparse and organic prog-rock-esque instrumentation, untraceable found sounds and processed noises. It’s interspersed with spontaneous percussive moments that are sometimes single hits that cut through the soundscape like blunt knives, sometimes more frantic repeated cymbal washes.

After a relatively sparse first five minutes, the multi-tracking gradually increases, and with it so does the sense of disorientation. It’s a bumpy sonic wallpaper, frequently introducing new noise variants to keep you on your toes, at times panning elements sharply across the stereo field as though trying to make you dizzy.

Around the fifteen minute mark guitar, bass and keys are gradually introduced, and this is where it takes a substantial step in the direction of avantgarde jazz or the most out-there side of prog rock. The analogue tone to the bleeps and radio effects that arrive here seem to throw proceedings back to a more 1970’s flavour, transforming it into a sort of improvised wig-out.

As we proceed into the second half, the melee is joined by deep piano notes and some strung-out bowed sounds that increase the tension and sense of alienation to a new level. Towards the finale the sense of a rhythmical pulse also increases, with the alarm-style notes in the final five minutes a very stark and broadly unpleasant wake-up call concluding something that initially sounded like it might have been sleep music.

It’s an expertly measured evolution of atmosphere and sound that progresses through a variety of styles without losing consistency. It feels at times like it looks backwards rather than forwards somewhat but appreciators of the most indulgent avantgarde edges of rock will definitely enjoy the ride.
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