Music Reviews



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Artist: Kodomo (@)
Title: Still Life
Format: CD
Label: 5 Points Records
Rated: *****
Kodomo is the brainchild of Chris Child (according to Child, Kodomo means "child" in Japan, where he spent his childhood). This is his debut album. According to Kodomo, "The concept for the record was born of a series of photographs, each one serving as a springboard for the music. The album explores how images of environments, landscapes, people, and objects are used to evoke musical ideas; each image giving rise to various rhythms, chords, and sonic textures." In short, this is instrumental electronic music and thankfully Kodomo avoids the use of cheesy samples that most people who do this kind of music find obligatory. The bonus track, "Spira Mirablis" is currently featured in the MTV/Harmonix iPod video game "Phase." This seems fitting because the entire album would be right at home on a video game. All of the tracks have a tendency to kind of fade into the background of whatever else you are doing. However, this is a two edged sword, as I found the disc to be a bit on the sterile side and a bit too subdued. There is an interesting mixture of styles here and it is adequately done, but it doesn’t really seem to break any new ground. Some of the comparisons that the label gives in the press pack (which, incidentally was quite niceI thought that the art of sending a promo was dead these days) include Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. This is accurate as far as it goes, but I find that Kodomo lacks some of the experimentalism that these acts have. Perhaps part of this is a product of his training; Kodomo is a graduate of Berklee College of Music. As such, the music is cleanly produced and technically sound. Overall, this is a pleasant listen and it would be a good way to introduce electronic music to someone who was new to the genrecall it the gateway drug for more experimental electronica. If this sounds good, you can listen to the entire album at the label’s website and preview the tracks on Kodomo’s website. Also, you may hear it other places. I could have sworn I heard it as incidental music on NPR recently. The disc weighs in at around 51 minutes and comes nicely packaged in a digipak with a booklet containing the aforementioned photographs.
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Artist: Teleseen
Title: Fear of the Forest
Format: CD
Label: Percepts (@)
Well, the label on the disc got my attention when it called the album "an electronic MC Escher." I was thinking that I was about to listen to the heir apparent to Coil’s legacy, or at least something like Oval. If you’re looking for this too, we both need to keep looking, because I think that this is a pretty inaccurate description. Putting a vocoder on some voices does not an experimental album make. The label is a bit more accurate, describing it thus: "The rhythmic grids of dancehall, ragga, two step, reggae and soul melt into each other forming a psychedelic lattice on which multivalent ambiences, melodies and vocals hang, splayed open like a tree that has been malformed by a vine grown around it for decades." Here we have a decent mix of dub and electronica. The closest comparison I could come up with is Zion Train or Twilight Circus. Overall, the album maintains the same laid back groove with the vocodered voices and some sparse synth lines, but the focus is definitely on the beat. Some, however, seem a little bit out of place, such as "Chikurubi feat. Billy Woods" that incorporates some rapping over the beats. It’s a pleasant listen, but (perhaps I am a bit jaded in this regard) I don’t really see this pushing the envelope too much until the end with "The Echo Will Triumph Over the Voice," which is a mix of beats, distorted electronics and blips and bleeps. I wish that the entire album had followed such a trajectory. This disc weighs in at around 56 minutes.
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Artist: Dolmen (@)
Title: Incantations Verse Two
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu
Rated: *****
According to the website, Incantations Verse 1 & 2 were composed and intended to be listened to back to back. You can get a bit more on the band and such in the review for Incantations Verse 1. They describe the album thus: "Incantations push the boundaries of dark ambient music while encompassing the dense textures of the shoegaze, the power of post-rock and the rhythmic procession of authentic tribal music." The first Incantations disc would have been right at home on a label like Cyclic Law, where this one would be right at home on Projekt records back in the day. The closest comparison that I can give would be a less dark version of Lycia. This album throws down wonderful soundscapes that bring in bits of percussion and noise that simmer just below the surface of lush drones. If you like drone music, this is definitely one to pick up. I enjoyed Incantations Verse 1, but Verse 2 will be the one logging much more time in my CD player. Recommended. This disc weighs in at around 55 minutes.
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Artist: Dolmen (@)
Title: Incantations Verse One
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu
Rated: *****
First off, a note concerning the state of the music industry. The label, Skean Dhu has closed its doors. "After seven years we had to call it quits. The idea of actually buying music is foreign to the new generation. The final nail in our coffin was P2P networks. When we were sending out our promos to reviewers, our cd’s were already been seeded and downloaded. You can’t succeed as a business when your product is stolen from right under you." To my knowledge the reviewers at Chain DLK do not do this, and I certainly have not. As someone who thinks that copyright will eventually implode upon itself through the actions of the RIAA and the quest for the perpetual copyright, this is not that surprising. People really do not care about the idea of copyright anymore. I have had people infringe on my music on several occasions as well. That said, we really need to support the underground labels out there. Most people who run labels in this scene do so while maintaining a day job or aggressively touring to make enough to support themselves. It’s a tough gig. We really shouldn’t make it tougher. Let’s face it – most labels in this scene will give you a decent taste for free anyway, unlike the majors who peddle only the hit and then hope that you buy the disc of filler to go with it. If you find something you like, support itthat is, unless you’re just waiting for the next boy band or Britney Spears clone to put out an album. OK, now let’s check out the album itself. According to the website, "Dolmen is a collaborative effort between Jason Sloan and Steven K. Smith of Cleveland, Ohio. Since 2002 they have constructed an engaging and powerful new palette of evolving atmospheres and sonic textures. Sloan and Smith enlist a heavily processed and manipulated arsenal of guitars, drums, bass and samplers. While using many traditional instruments, at times it is impossible to tell what type of instruments are being played. This in turn gives the sound a timeless, transitory and almost apocalyptic feel." Not sure if I would take it to the apocalyptic level but this is solid dark ambient for the most part, although some depart from this formula. For example, "Forgotten Ritual" brings in a bit noisier element with some well placed feedback and distortion. "Residual Haunting II" brings in some drumming and ethnic percussion over a synth line with mostly unintelligible voice. At 15.28, "A Past Life Reconstructed," is the longest song on the album, incorporating elements from the previous tracks. It slowly evolves a kind of structure with rhythmic synth washes and insistent, yet understated, drumming. Overall, a pleasant listen. This is part one of a two disc series. This disc weighs in at around 48 minutes.
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Artist: ERIK URSICH (@)
Title: 3048
Format: CD
Label: Farmacia 901 (@)
Rated: *****
3048 is the latest Erik Ursich album and since the title comes from the length of the suite you'll find on this limited to 212 copies CD-r, you could think that you're listening to a conceptual release. Well, I don't know exactly if there's any concept behind the analog sounds that Erik produces with his old synths (he uses Ems Synthi AKS, Moog Sonic Six, Steiner-Parker Synthacon, Roland RE-501 and an Ibanez DDL) but for sure 3048 sounds like a throbbing result of an experiment that gone bad. The track starts slowly and low with humming drones and pulsing waves and little by little starts to grow with the add more drones, low frequencies and bleeps that cries for freedom running from one channel to the other. The result is a mesmerizing track that is able to hook the listener immediately. You'll be trapped for 30 minutes and 48" and you'll find asking yourself if you got abducted by aliens.
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