Music Reviews



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Artist: YOSHIO MACHIDA (@)
Title: Hypernatural #3
Format: CD
Label: Baskaru (@)
Rated: *****
While first approaching Machida's release on Baskaru I was quite sure what I was going to review was a good japanese ambient cd but in someway that's a restrictive definition for Hypernatural #3. Infact while working with ambient sound and not betraying her being japanese, Machida joins the aforementioned characteristic with a strong contemporary attitude that's why this work by some means reminded me some of the early ambient composers coming from a learned background like David Cunningham who's 1991’s "water" on Made to Measure label remains a real masterpiece. Hypernatural #3 also reminded me of David Toop and again I think there a thread between the two artist I’ve mentioned so far in this review. On the other hand as I've said he's from the land of the raising sun and you can bet those ambient-japanese electronic sounds you either love or hate are probably part of the DNA and sure I'm in the ranks of those who love them. It's a soft work that despite some electronic aesthetic is much closer to classic ambient than to Minamo, Neina or names like those we've encountered so far. Simplicity and refined gentleness as you probably expect a release like that to be and you won't be disappointed since Hypernatural #3 won't betray those simple but basic rules. What I found quite characteristic of this release and that makes the difference between Machida and many young japanese composers is the fact he has this old school ambient approach that makes it in some way heavier but in a positive way, for example just take the closing tracks of the cd, the music is so low it's even hard to get what's happening you have this really distant sound fading in the background while on the surface you hear a soft and silent field recording of birds singing I'm not surprised he gave this closing track the same title of this release, the fact is it probably embodies the spirit of the whole concept thought It really sounds hyper-natural. Another reason for which I’ve been comparing Machida and Cunningham, despite the fact their music is considerably different, is that they’re both musicians before using electronics, infact Yoshio is a steel pan player, believe it or not from this work is really hard to get this thing and to me that’s another point of interest to give a listen to his last work.

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Artist: DIFFERENT STATE & SIGILL (@)
Title: Spazmatic[k] Spell
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum Records (@)
Rated: *****
SPAZMATIC[K] SPELL is a Different State/Sigill (www.myspace.com/sigill) split CD album dedicated to the memory and work of painter and magician Austin Osman Spare (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin_Osman_Spare). DIfferent State is a Polish project active since early 90's which released different albums since then. At their beginnings the music was mostly focused on noisy experimentation but slightly it moved on the use of electronic gear. The four tracks of this split ("I hate the eyes", "Ear", "Nose" and "Formal experimentation") see Marek X Marchoff (the man guy behind the project) helped by Laura Marchoff (angelic[k] voice, custom made generator A-23), Tom Westbum (clarinet, sax, alto sax, trumpet) and Janusz Sokolnicki (tube AMP, lead guitar). The combo for each track used a different solution, approaching them from a particular angle. If "I hate the eyes" is a really good spoken word with experimental electronic background, the following "Ear" recalled me a sort of mix between Foetus and Mark Stewart & The Maffia. "Nose", instead, is more melancholic and cinematic, proposing a nostalgic guitar solo overwhelmed by distant and reverbered orchestral sounds. "Formal experimentation" is an electronic/wave experimental track which creates a sort of spatial effect with sax inserts. Sigill approach to sound is a total different one. The Polish duo formed by Brat Salo and Nantur love to create obscure drones with echoed sounds where vocal parts seem to be taken from rituals. "Sunever", "Io Pan'i", "Ashtoreth" and "Moon lore" remember to me some old Endura tracks with that sort of throbbing electronic humming mixed with samples and noises: a sort of ritual dark ambient kind of sound. They sound less varied compared to Different State but their sound is kinda "thick".
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Artist: AD OMBRA
Title: Rites of Genesis (equinox tremendum)
Format: CD
Label: Rage In Eden (@)
Rated: *****
RITES OF GENESIS is the first Ad Ombra album and if you are a new-classical/dark music lover you'll love the first album of this Romanian band. The CD is contained into a three panel digipack showing paintings (by Luna) which introduce you to the atmosphere of the work. In balance from opera with female vocals and dark orchestral pieces (do you remember Devil Doll?), Ad Ombra are able to create a whole world made of tormented souls. Musically we have frequent ambience changes which seems to follow a plot: the fifteen movements seem to be steps of a story. Trying to figuring it out, it feels like something (an homunculus maybe?) born and this "thing" provoked gods' anger. At this point starts a sort of inner battle where the magician is tormented by the remorse but he also wants to win his fears by imposing his will. Here are the track-list, try to imagine your own story and be sure to check some of their tracks at their Myspace page:
01. Descort (upon the face of the Deep)
02. Tempting the Insolence of Vision
03. Heart Sermons
04. Spermognosis
05. Thanatomia (litania mierae)
06. A pearled Remorse
07. Rituals of the Dormant
08. Exequies
09. Sycomore made Senses
10. Once upon Desire
11. Dusk Vanity
12. Sideranoia
13. Consolatio (Nachtlied der Reinheit)
14. Quarted Divine
15. Verigoplay : Genesis
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Artist: PIETRO BONANNO
Title: Music For Flying Planes
Format: CD
Label: Essentia Mundi (@)
Rated: *****
After releasing three solo piano albums and two other ones focused on drones, Pietro Bonanno is releasing his latest album MUSIC FOR FLYING PLANES for Essentia Mundi. Based on drones for three out of five tracks (the remaining two are composed using treated piano layers which propose different de-constructed themes), the tracks weren't able to involve me too much because of the kind of sounds used (low bit-rate drones which were sounding with no dimension) and because of the choice of giving to the suites an hypnotic imprint with no apparent defined structure. The whole album has some good moments: "The day of diamond dreams" and "This journey will be eternal" are the tracks I appreciated most because it give the sensation to grow constantly but it's hard to stand 20' of recursive similar sounds because after 5 minutes the music became like a distant noise. If you are into minimal hypnotic ambient sounds check some sound excerpts at the label website.
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Artist: Miss Massive Snowflake (@)
Title: Queen’s Headache
Format: CD
Label: North Pole Records (@)
Distributor: Starbage Hands
Rated: *****
Miss Massive Snowflake is one Shane de Leon of Portland, Oregon. This multi-instrumentalist and songwriter played with the experimental group Rollerball for ten years, and he has recorded and performed with numerous bands and artists. "Queen’s Headache" is a felicitous romp full of playful tunes that sound like what might happen if Ween were to sneak into one of the classrooms in Jack Black’s "School Of Rock" and host an impromptu fantasy music camp for kids. This is by no means a knock on the music, which is really catchy and chock full of intriguing and diverse instrumentation. It is rather a very positive indictment on the booster-shot-sized injection of youthful exuberance and fun brought to this CD by its many young contributors, and the apparently young-at-heart ringleader, de Leon. The opening cut is a sweet and serene instrumental entitled "Satsuma." "Bombs Away" follows with a sad and scathing political message woven into a simple, understated melody. Larry Yes lends his vocal talents on "Swing of Hair," a love-infused ditty with a banjo appetizer and a mildly funky feel. "Hillarianos" introduces us to child vocalist Micah Von Werssowetz as he riffs about being a robot over a mild dose of television static. This mirth goes out the window as Von Werssowetz switches gears in "The Hunt," a creepy piece that sounds as though it might’ve been authored by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris! Things simmer down considerably after that, though, with "Meredith," a mellow guitar melody with a soothing beat and a few juicy midi horns thrown in for kicks. "Who Wrecked the Party" sees the return of Larry Yes on lead vocals with music by DJ Faccia di Merda. A buzzing beat hops round with middle-eastern influenced drums as children from the Choral Kinders ask "who wrecked the party?" About a minute into this tune, Yes uncorks one of the most absurd raps ever penned, sounding like Larry Nye-does-G-rated-Eminem. This is "better-not-listen-to-it-for-the-first-time-while-driving-because-it’s-so-amusing-you-may-wreck-your-car" funny! "Draggish Friends" features child vocalist Kiana Monihan offering a brief update on the situation in Iraq. Werssowetz reappears on "I Don’t Know," though you wouldn’t know as his vocals are heavily processed and hidden behind a beefy beat with some ham & eggs keyboards on the side. "One I’ve Been Waiting For" is a lovely, low-fi cover of a tune by Raleigh, N.C.-based alt-rockers, Remora. "Fossil Fissure" is an unsettling statement on invasion and death with Kiana Monihan and de Leon on vocals. The edge is taken off once again as this is followed by the spunky instrumental "Sunday, Monday," and then "Cake," which appears to be a fondly reminiscent dedication to a friend. Somber tones return on "The Mexican," but the disc closes out with a laugh on "26 Names," as Marley Von Werssowetz drops a list of playground insults describing Miss Massive Snowflake – one for each letter – over bongo beats and a slow chord progression. A-Alligator Breath... B-Butthead... etc. Too much comedy! As an added bonus, the disc also includes videos for five of the songs in quicktime format. The disc and a lyric sheet are housed inside of a colorful sleeve within a nice digipak-type slipcase with a beautifully letterpressed cover. The playful artwork and design are products of de Leon’s fertile imagination and should provide a clue for the listener that fun times are ahead. One of the true joys of being a music reviewer is discovering hidden treasures – releases I probably would not have otherwise come across that appeal to me so much I would have happily dropped some coin to add them to my collection. "Queen’s Headache" fits firmly into that category!
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