Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Zoom In 12: New Art Music from Lithuania
Format: CD + Download
Label: MIC Lithuania
In the latest in their sterling work promoting avant garde classical music from their country, the Music Information Centre Lithuania have gathered together seven beautiful pieces from different artists into a lovely curated and coherent 74-minute relaxing listening experience. While these are mostly live concert recordings from 2015 and 2016- some recorded in other European cities- the consistently high recording quality (and the audience’s deferential silence!) give many of the pieces a studio quality. It’s pristine, detailed and really rather charming.

Highlights include Just Janulyt’s “Harp is a Chord” which plays baroque harpsichord sound against soft accordion drone to give a magical flavour, and the grumblier and more sinister tones of Marius Baranauskas’ “Delta Cephei” which showcases some deep tone-bending cello work.

Julius Aglinska’s “...” and Dominykas Digimas’s “no sense” are, despite their more out-there titles, two of the more traditionally structured pieces, both spacious and relaxed in their own ways.

The final piece, ibuokl Martinaityt’s 18 minute work “Chairoscuoro Trilogy”, is a self-contained mini-epic driven by extremely expressive piano work that steps through a variety of mood interactions with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, sometimes tense, sometimes argumentative, sometimes resolved.

Everything I’ve heard recently from MIC Lithuania has been of a very high quality- classical, sure, and at times not imbued with truly unique character, but always an engrossing and premium listening experience, and this new compilation is no exception.
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Artist: Trondheim Voices + Asle Karstad
Title: Rooms & Rituals
Format: CD + Download
Label: Grappa Musikkforlag
There’s a strong inventiveness in the concept of these collected live performance pieces. Trondheim Voices are a seven (or sometimes nine)-piece vocal-only group who wander around the performance space, singing a mixture of lyrics and more frequently lyricless tones, making vocal percussive clicks and noises, and working playfully with their voices and an undisclosed ‘theatrical element’.

Importantly, they are kitted out with ‘maccatrols’- wireless effects unit controls that they carry with them with which they can delay, reverb, pitch-shift and loop the sounds that they are making. These boxes are used extensively and form a fundamental part of the end result, which just as often sounds like inhuman digital electronica as it does like an experimental acapella group.

Much of the time, it’s very plaintive and sometimes exceptionally quiet- pieces like “Rise” and the traditional Norwegian folk song at the heart of “Hymn” feel empty and funereal. More dramatic pieces, like the harsh opening rock screams, pulsing and exercise breathing of “Room #10”, or the ever-so-slightly pop leanings of “Gleam” are the lesser part of the album, which is a shame as these works are arguably more interesting whenever there’s a driving energy behind them.

Still a solo vocal collection, but with a audibly unique approach, there’s enough detail in here to captivate and impress the focused listener.
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Artist: Federico Dal Pozzo
Title: Untitled_VNZ
Format: CD
Label: KrysaliSound (@)
Rated: *****
Besides an almost scientific approach to recording techniques and the general "sonic strategy" based on the idea that music can be squeezed from matter, one of the linking ring between this "Untitled_" (the tag that starts any title of his outputs) and the previous one ("Untitled_TeVeT") on Francis M.Fri's imprint KrysaliSound by Venetian musician and concrete performer Federico Dal Pozzo is maybe only water: the one turning into a 380 kilos weigh ice block on the latter, and the mini acousmatic concert of delays, echoes and a series of odd reverberations and mutations (where the liquid sonic source paradoxically seems to turn into a hiss or a fire crackle) of the dropping ones on the former. The other one could be its detachment into two related parts: as for "Untitled_TeVeT", "Untitled_VNZ" (being VNZ, a sort of code derived from the first three consonants of Venezia, Italian for Venice, the conceptual and the material framework of this release) sounds like a bipartite acousmatic progression, whose watershed (occurring after 20-21 minutes) is an Italian sentence by a female voice, that appeared shredded in the first part saying something meaning "one second before I ask myself how it will be, one second after I think to the next time, but when I do that, it's nice and I don't think to anything else". As the dropping water is the sparkle element of this first progression, the sparkle of the second part is another concrete distinguishing element of the sonic landscape of Venice, the toll of some church bells (I guess they're the ones of St Mark's Basilica), gradually re-morphed and melting with the likewise transformed sound of chirping birds; this intriguing amalgamation sounds like fading into an obscure synth pad, that Federico suddenly turns off, as if he can control the voltage of this sonic electric film. The isolated resounding frequencies, wisely extracted from the initial tolling bells, will soon fade into a maze of hissing noises, similar to the white noise related to broadcast of no signals on TV screens or radio, a disturbing chaos that Federico channels into a "balancing" sound before the final minutes where he seems to give voice to poltergeist musicians of Venetian ghosts, who seems to play a classical romanza in between the dying atoms of Federico's pulverization. It's everything but a cliched romantic sonic postcard of Venice, that maybe mirrors the shadow on that same cliche.
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Artist: 2methyl (@)
Title: Etched
Format: CD + Download
Label: Agnost1k Records (@)
Rated: *****
Once again delving into the pile Mr. Urselli couldn't get to with 2methyl's 'Etched' released on the Agnost1k label in June 2017. 2methyl is French music producer Nicolas Druoton whose first full album release was 'Layer 8' on the Ad Noiseam label in 2015. 2methyl has had his fingers in numerous remix pies over the years so he certainly knows his way around the gear. 2methyl's style is a mix of of dark d'n'b, IDM, moody industrialism, dubstep, and noir downtempo. (Think of a gloomy and sinister Amon Tobin.) 2methy's music on 'Etched' largely relies on creative percussion/rhythm programming with twisted futuristic synths and atmospheres woven between the beats. Some of those beats are supplied by drummer Youle. For the most part 'Etched' is quite sci-fi sounding without resorting to overdone cliches. It's also not very predictable, and the multilayering 2methyl employs adds a sense of depth often lacking in primarily instrumental albums of this type. When I say primarily instrumental, I have to mention one track- "Cross" with vocals from the L.A. noise rap group Moodie Black's Kdeath. I just don't like rap, and this track is not going to change my mind about it. Rather than dwell on that though, I will say that 'Etched' is one helluva delicious album that tears through a variety apocalyptic moods and scenes, often wild and chaotic but never completely jumping off the cliff. Now here's the rub- 2methyl and Agnost1k have decided to release the CD in a limited (50 copies) edition in a handcrafted box. That's going to set you back some $$ though at 28 Euros or more. For the budget-minded, the digital download price of 11E is a bit more affordable.
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Artist: First Aid 4 Souls (@)
Title: Dark Tunnel
Format: CD + Download
Label: Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested (@)
Rated: *****
I'm trying to play catch-up with a slew of releases that have sat idle in Mr. Urselli's hopper for some time (Marc's a very busy guy) and this is one of them. Sometimes you need to play detective just to get the basics to prep for a review. In this case it's the label that's the problem- Digital Absynthe/No Labels Interested. There's no website by that name, but the album is being sold (here in the U.S. anyway) on Human Vault's Bandcamp site which seems to serve as the label's website. (I could have just called the album "self-released", but where's the challenge in that?) Turns out Human Vault (from Brooklyn, NY) is the vocalist and lyricist on this album going by the name of Mortum. First Aid 4 Souls is the music project of Istvan Gazdag, from Budapest, Hungary where 'Dark Tunnel' was recorded. If you check Discogs you will find that First Aid 4 Souls has a lengthy discography going back to 2008, but Gazdag's musical history goes back much further than that, to 1992 with the band Vacuum, one of the most significant bands in the Hungarian industrial music scene. So obviously Istvan has a lot of cred it electro-industrial music. 'Dark Tunnel' is a concept album based on Dmitry Glukhovsky's 2005 novel, "Metro 2033". The book is set in the Moscow Metro, where the last survivors hide after a global nuclear holocaust. There communities settled within the underground train stations and developed into independent states over time, and various political factions emerged vying for power and control. You can see that this isn't going to bode well for the inhabitants, as conflicts turning into war eventually rages between them, with the added post-apocalyptic distress of mutation due to nuclear fallout. There's much more to it than that, but if you're really intrigued you should read the book. 'Dark Tunnel' does a good job of capturing the flavor of this dystopian work, and while Mortum's lyrics don't get specific about characters and plot, they are still in keeping with the dystopian tone of the work. You'll need the (enclosed) lyric sheet though as the electronic vocal processing and Mortum's somewhat raspy voice and accent often obscure the words. Unfortunately the lyrics to the first two tracks- "Her Face As An Angel" and title track "Dark Tunnel" are not included, so you'll just have to tough those out. Istvan's dark electro/EBM synthwork and rhythm programming and production is excellent throughout, old school but still never sounding merely two-dimensional. The album does seem to end inconclusively though, without a strong denouement, so perhaps a sequel could be in the FA4S's future? What really makes this album worthy though is its astronomically low price, at least on the label's Bandcamp site. Two bucks for the CD, and download for only $1.00?? It's almost like giving it away!
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