Music Reviews



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Artist: Gen Ken Montgomery
Title: Drilling Holes in the Wall
Format: CD
Label: Monochrome Vision
Rated: *****
What immediately strikes me as interesting for the concept of this album is the personal nature behind it. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seems that references to life prior to it are becoming fewer and farther between. The title track of this disc, Drilling Holes in the Wall manages to capture a snapshot of the musical life and times that preceded the unification of East and West Germany.

Released on Russia's label Monochrome Vision label, this album is a collection of works composed between 1986 and 1991. All of the pieces seem to derive from various personal circumstances or environments in which the composer was subjected to. In the liner notes, the artist discusses how he was forbade to cross into East Germany with the instrument used on this album, a Casio MS-10. After being heavily modified into a bastardized synthesizer, the resulting sounds are of a rickety, crunchy, and crackly synth, but because of the dangling wires and modifications, make it look more like an explosive device than a musical instrument (photo included). After being denied entry to the neighboring country because of this, Gen Ken had to find alternative ways to make music on the other side of the tracks. The final work, 'Don't Bring Those Things,' is a prime example of the invention by necessity, created using borrowed instruments of friends.

Describing the sound of this disc is like trying to sum up a book in a single sentence. The sounds are all over the map, with some being textural and gritty, others being metallic and clangy. There are field recordings and the use of voice in a variety of ways. Icebreaker, track 4, was derived seemingly from recordings of an ice machine and to great results. There is also a heavy analogy synth feel considering the nature of the circuit bent electronics. But despite the 2 octave keyboard used to generate these sounds, the range of timbre could not be wider.

That being said, Gen Ken manages to provide a compelling slab of a constantly shifting electronic sound across this hour long journey. Perhaps the best way to describe the sound of this disc is to actually imagine the sound of the Berlin Wall being demolished, with all its hammering, shoveling, crumbling, toppling, and of course...drilling.

This disc serves as an excellent compendium of the work of Gen Ken Montgomery across a number of years, personal eras, and performance spaces. Recommended to fans of raw sound, analog synth music, and noise.
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Artist: SISTRENATUS (@)
Title: Sensitive Disturbance
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring Records (@)
Rated: *****
SENSITIVE DISTURBANCE is the third album of the Canadian combo called Sistrenatus and it sounds damn good. The seven tracks of the album tear down the barriers of industrial/noise/dark ambient music by mixing elements of each one of them with the only aim to create a tense soundtrack. For example, "Frequency Contamination" with its mix of synth waves, analog noises and metallic percussions is able to catch your attention immediately thanks also to its constant grew that brings in sudden power noise blasts here and there. "Rusted Earth" sounds like old good 80s industrial music but with improved sounds and at the end it turns into a death march thanks to distorted guitars and percussions just to fade into "Echoes From The Past" which expands this theme some more with the add of recitative vocals. "Lost Transmission" is another track where concrete noises are mixed with industrial sounds and dark ambient patterns but on "Forgotten" we reach the peak thanks to a perfect mix of melody, tension and crisp sounds. On this one, but generally on all the tracks of the album, Sistrenatus show their ability of balancing all the sounds creating a mix where everything is in the right place and for this reason their music sounds so effective.
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Artist: AD OMBRA
Title: Magna Charta Illusorum
Format: CD
Label: Rage In Eden (@)
Rated: *****
MAGNA CHARTA ILLUSORUM is the second album for Ad Ombra and on this one George D. Stanciulescu mixed industrial sounds, neo-classical structures/instruments and some modern classical music intuitions. Helped by Alexandra Damian (mezzo-soprano), linca Olteanu (soprano) and Andrei Apostol (additional male voices) he composed twelve suites where the initial martial orchestrations of "Templum Stygialis" and "Disquiet Opera" slowly blend into dramatic semi opera tunes. If on tracks like "... a coeur posthume" melodic chants are the main element on "Uranogeea" or the following "Mimes of the Occult" melody become an hidden element between the orchestra explosion of strings and the dissonant chants. On these moments it seems that George opted for a score born from improvisations where we have sudden changes of melody and atmosphere. "Heritages de l'Angoisse" is the track where the different influences are well represented because it starts with a harpsichord then we have a female/strings duet that after a while turns into a piano/samples industrial moment just to end like an industrial wave track with filtered male vocals and martial rhythms. The atmosphere convinced me but an occasional listener could be confused by the dissonant rumbles that take a hold on many moments, so check some track first.
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Artist: Synaptic Defect
Title: World-Wide Life & Death
Format: CD
Label: Advoxya Records
Rated: *****
Synaptic Defect is a one-man-project by Marc Tater from Beverstedt, Germany. Marc has got a long history of being involved in the dark electro scene; he was a co-owner of a label, currently he writes for the German gothic printed zine Zillo and not least for chaindlk.com.
"World-Wide Life & Death" is a follow up is his second album after "Mechanical Oppression", which was released in 2004 on BLC Productions. The album is over 75-minute long of Old-School EBM and this is no easy listening music. The rhythm lays the fundament for the tracks, often with more than just a little power-noise touch accompanied by samples and distorted vocals.
The track "Punish me" could serve a soundtrack for an SM-session. "Belief" seems to me to be the most fitting track to be played in a club because it is the most danceable one on the album, in my opinion.
The album criticizes the shortcomings of this world and the role the human kind has played in bringing them upon itself. The music is uncompromising, which is usually the case with solo artists and no surprise for an Advoxya Records release.
Synaptic Defect is a project that has much to offer to the listeners but it also demands some musical competence from them which is not uncommon in the underground scene.
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Artist: MCKMN (@)
Title: Orphan Ristophe
Format: CD
Label: Mockmoon Records (@)
Distributor: CD Baby
Rated: *****
Right off the bat, I found this project intriguing. In fact, it was the first CD I opened and played when I received the latest batch to review. My first impressions were mostly positive, but I decided not to rush into anything and give it some time, so I put it on the back burner for a bit. Whether the project is called MCKMN, or Mockmoon I guess doesn’t make too much of a difference. It’s the music of Dutch artist Terence Koot and I think it’s his first effort. For some reason stuff I’ve heard coming out of the Netherlands lately has been pretty interesting, and maybe there is a musical renaissance brewing in the land of tulips, van Gogh and good weed.

My initial impression of MCKMN’s "Orphan Ritophe" was that it has a progressive bent, and my impression didn’t change after a few listenings. It is an instrumental album with a cinematic flavor. Koot constructs tracks that could easily be used in movie scores or computer games. I was most impressed with the flow of the pieces, the way they moved naturally with a certain continuity. The layering is full and rich without being cluttered, engaging without being overwhelming, dramatic where it needs to be, and laid back when appropriate. These are all the marks of a talented composer who has a good handle on his craft. While many who attempt this style of music often draw too much from the Delerium school of composition, MCKMN’s influences seem to be more drawn from film composers like Hans Zimmer, Graeme Revell, Howard Shore, Paul Haslinger, Marco Beltrami, etc. I’m not say he’s in a league with those guys yet, but it seems to be where MCKMN is heading.

I like the moods displayed on "Orphan Ritophe". They’re a bit on the dark side without coming across as morbid, dreary, depressing or apocalyptic. The percussion programming is great, even if the mix hasn’t been perfected yet. The track "Ganymede" conveys a lot of motion; perhaps a hunt, or flying over some exotic terrain in a helicopter while riders on horseback below chase their quarry. The title track which follows utilizes electric guitar to build atmosphere, and morphs into almost a koto-like sound to give an oriental flavor. When the soaring lead kicks in, you just get goosebumps. Koot’s tempered use of strings also seems to be an indication that he has a movie in his mind when he composed these tracks. "The Great White Open" uses a haunting vocal loop to set its mood then morphs into a jazzy horn thing followed by a sparse guitar melody, all underscored by driving percussion. For the most part, the tracks are episodic; something you will find in most film scores, but there is also a cohesivness and consistency on this album that you won’t find in a lot of film scores owing to the nature of the variety of scenes that must be composed for.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive new releases I have heard in a long time. I’m an electronic musician, but I doubt I could come up with anything this good even of I threw another 10k into studio gear and devoted 90% of my time to making music. "Orphan Ritophe" is really "The Bomb" and the only improvement that might be able to be made on it is in the production department. Some elements didn’t sound as bright or defined as I would have liked. But hey, this guy is only 26 years old, and this effort is head and shoulders above most of the stuff I get to review. There is a depth and maturity here that takes many musician/composers a decade or more to reach. Mark my words, if Mr. Koot gets the right breaks, you’re going to hear his music on some game, or as the soundtrack to some movie in the not too distant future. In the meantime, I’d recommend this album as a STRONG BUY, because it’s that damn good.
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