Music Reviews



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Artist: Howard Givens & Craig Padilla (@)
Title: Being of Light
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Here are a couple of names that ought to be instantly recognizable to many familiar with ambient artists - Howard Givens and Craig Padilla. Both long-time veterans as electronic musicians and composers, Givens has more credits as producer, mixer, recording and mastering engineer than as a solo recording artist, while with Craig, the opposite is applicable. Together on 'Being of Light' these two blend their talents in such a way as to complement each others' skill set over four lengthy soundscapes. I don't believe this is their first collaboration as I have seen at least a couple of other releases they did together. What I really like about 'Being of Light' is that there is a musicality to the ambient that is intriguing without being overwhelming. That is to say the melodic content is supportive rather than upfront. There are lengthy, sustained synth pads that carry the ambient textures of these pieces, in which non-obtrusive guitar and grand piano accents occasionally, but effectively emerge. As stated on the label's one-sheet, "Weaving melodic phrases and rich textures through rhythmic structures and sequences, Givens and Padilla create deep interludes and expansive passages that exemplify the inspiration behind the project- to musically express the state of awareness that comes through the discovery of one's 'inner being' and pure essence. With 'Being of Light they emphasize a a visceral and enveloping experience, conceptually envisioning the album as a topology of energy where the individual is a single point of light, solitary and self-aware, yet melded into the sum of all light, complete in the totality of existence."

The opening track, "Clearing the Mind" sets the stage for what is to come with a basically two-chord (there are actually a few more than two chords)piano theme set in a spacey atmosphere. It has dramatic impetus without being inordinant. (On some planet it might even make a good TV show theme.) "Threads of Thought" eases into its groove with lazy guitar, spacey drone and a repetitive bass pattern, followed by light percussion. This piece is a prime example of the trip being more about the journey than the destination. "A Contemplative State" is just that; over 30 minutes of textured drones and harmonics floating in the void. Concepts of time and space disappear here. Like the title of Sartre's most important philosophical work, this piece seems to be about "being and nothingness," where consciousness is left to it's own device to interpret reality, or what passes for it in one's existence. It is deep, intense and subtly changing, yet there is no distraction in its fluid stream. The subtle melodicism at the end of this piece reawakens the "dreamer" from her entranced state of contemplation. Lastly, there is the title track, "Being of Light." Here, one is assumed to have ascended into the realm of pure light. It is an airy and open dronescape twinkling with possibility, free of terrestrial matter, and ever spiraling upward and onward.

What I think Givens and Padilla have created in 'Being of Light' is something unusual and exemplary- a programmed meditative state free of distraction yet not without personality and purpose. It is rare to hear and ambient album that can serve as either musical wallpaper or deep meditation without one taking away from the other.
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Artist: low.poly.exception (@)
Title: Nodal Point Gang
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Want to know what is often the most difficult thing about being a reviewer here at Chain D.L.K. ? Finding out the email address of the artist, which is a requirement. Simply put, I CAN'T NOTIFY YOU OF A POSTED REVIEW IF YOU DON'T INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. Now I understand some high profile artists don't want to give out their email address because of spam, stalker fans or whatever, and they often have mgmt, companies or reps who who field their email. But unless you're in that strata, please don't make me play detective and try and hunt down your email address when you don't include it, especially if your work is self-released. That said, low.poly.exception is an offshoot project of jhm from the Philadelphia area who mainly produces music under the name of Neon Shudder, Haven't heard that. 'Nodal point Gang' is low.poly.exception's debut album after releasing a couple of prior EPs. The accompanying one-sheet describes this as "9 tracks of dark electronic music with influences ranging from the likes of Kenji Kawai and Ryuichi Sakamoto to Ed Harrison (OEdit) and bands like Buck-Tick. 'Nodal Point Gang' takes elements of cyberpunk, darkwave, synthwave, and more. The end result is referred to in a tongue-in-cheek manner as 'codewave'." Okay, so that's the artist's take on his (or her) own music. Here's mine. Nine tracks of fairly innocuous instrumental synth electronica with programmed drum machine. As far as comparison with the artist's influences, perhaps low.poly.exception would like to sound like them, but in no way does. Comparisons are difficult because no one I know is is really doing this kind of old-school instrumental synth & drum machine stuff anymore. Maybe Sakamoto when he began with YMO many years ago, but even then there was some flair and panache beyond simplistic synth melodies, pads, and cliched rhythms. Sounds are definitely from Presetville and pose absolutely no challenge whatsoever for the listener. There is a bit of (melancholy) atmosphere on some pieces but it really isn't what I'd call dark. Because the music is so benign, it almost comes across as ambient, or more accurately, melambient, but I don't think that was necessarily the artist's intention. Although there are no vocals, there is a brief (processed) spoken word section in the third track, "Faded Semiotics" that sounds typically cyber-dystopian. This might have been considered great stuff in the '70s or early '80s but the electronic music field has become so glutted with bedroom musicians it sounds like it could have been made by anyone with some basic synth and sequencing software and time on their hands. Next time up your game beyond demo quality and deliver the real deal.
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Artist: How To Cure Our Soul (@)
Title: Mare
Format: CD
Label: Sequel
Rated: *****
This new release form the project of Marco Marzuoli and Alessandro Sergente is a single track release introduced by the Jules Verne's words about the see as "the Living Infinite". As their previous releases, also this one is based upon drones and it's focused on a meditative idea of sound.
After some seconds of silence, instead of the expected drone, the ebb and flow of the sea introduce the listener into a contemplative setting as even some bird could be heard at a distance. Approximately at 5:00 mark, a drone quietly starts an begin to try to blend to the sound of the water and at 10:00 mark a second drone stats and instead of bury the underneath element it seems to underline them until the third one takes the listen towards the full listening experience overwhelming the listener. As the underlining field recording is always audible it sounds as the juxtaposition of a place and the emotions triggered by it as if the drone would act as a voice off. As the track begins his ending the drones quietly stops and the listener is left with the sound of the sea.
If, after reading this release, the reader could think that this release is developed around nothing, he should be aware that sometimes less is more as pure contemplation could only be done while seeing the details and forget the rest. Essential.
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Artist: Deison & Mingle (@)
Title: Tiliaventum
Format: CD
Label: Final Muzik (@)
Rated: *****
As the title suggests, this release is an homage to the Tagliamento, one of the few braided river remained and, for his morphology, could be easily seen as a metaphor about life seen as the intersection of personal destinies or about place viewed as the sum of personal contributions. While it's plenty of contributions, every theoretically external input is fully absorbed in a coherent musical field.
The sounds of "Arteria" opens this release with an equilibrium between a sense of movement and a sense of rest where even some field recording seems to emerge. "Tiliment" is a quiet and meditative piece for sustained tones supported by the beats while, even in an abstract way, "Agane" reveals a sense for melody closer than expected to pop. "La Piena", with his heavy beats and square structure, takes this release towards certain industrial territories. The complex soundscape of "Sotterraneo" is an interlude to "Grave" which continues on the path marked by the use of terse beats while "Pietra Viva" reveals in the background the craft in the shaping of sound and the clever use of field recordings. From a certain perspective, "21:00:12" seems the second part of "La Piena" while "Savalon" and "Nel tuo letto" are quiet sonic watercolors and "Ajar e aghe" closes this release with a song for voice and field recordings of the water.
The use of sounds derived from natural elements like stones seems the glue that ties togheter a release swinging from experimental angst to pop attention, so resulting in a release that could find an audience even outside of the genre's circle. Recommended.
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Artist: drøne
Title: Mappa Mundi
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
The name “Drøne” could hardly be more appropriate, albeit with the added o stroke. This is a thirty-five minute arrangement of mechanical drone noises, electric hums, distant industrial rhythms and work-related electronic found sounds. A mixture of well-used sounds- playgrounds, railways, offices- meshes with less recognisable

Officially the 35 minutes is mapped out into five named sub-sections, but in practice it slowly evolves as different layers arrive, overlap and decay with few sudden shifts, so it’s hard to discuss highlights or weaknesses with any specificity. By halfway through, dark-sounding voices have been added and the mood has shifted a step or two in a sinister direction. A tone like a distant alarm frightened and disorientated my co-worker who didn’t realise it was (technically) music. Shortly afterward this opens up into a slightly brighter section centred around rolling stock and tannoy announcements. This in turn leads to a more discordant arrangement of high-pitched screeches that’s properly uncomfortable. The modem sounds that follow sound almost reassuring by comparison. We wrap nicely with a relatively simple blanket hum.

It’s a slightly muddy production overall, rumbling and bubbling in a way that’s deliberately indistinct and alienating, but the net result is a strangely captivating soundscape that draws you in, willing you to listen more carefully to see if you can hear anything familiar in it. For my personal taste I think it’s just a touch too wilfully hard-edged, with too many tinnitus notes and too much noise, but nevertheless it’s still a strong work.
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