Music Reviews



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Artist: Josh Russell (@)
Title: Sink
Format: CD
Label: Quiet Design (@)
Rated: *****
Austin-based Quiet Design delivered a brand new release in early 2008: the new album by lowercase sound pioneer (and fellow Austinite) Josh Russell (his fourth release to date).
Russell's approach to sound mirrors his academic background in microscopy research. He zooms into the components, spirals down to the primary element-level substratus and turns the focus dial to reveal what goes unnoticed. Then he builds around that, making it the primary core of a new composition. In doing so he creates a broad universe of low pressure synthetic veils that hover and flutter over pulsating organic patterns in the same way that thick shades of oil colors would be layered over background textures on a Thomas Crown affair-like canvas, revealing new shapes underneath the ones you are currently paying attention to. It comes as no surprise to me that Russell is also a painter (which I found out from his website after I wrote this review). In a way, "Sink" is a very visual record, a very visionary record, a sonic translation of multi-pattern and multi-layer micro-cosmos of slowly modulating sines and throbbing bubbles of light. You might think of it as a dilated and liquified glitch electronica record in which the glitches have been replaced by stretched snapshots of the universe the glitch came from.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Post-Asiatic: Lost War Dream Music
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: URCKarm Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
After my recent trip to Asia, my interest in oriental music has definitely greatly increased and then this release fell into my lap... Serendipity or coincidence, I eagerly went through this double bill, listening to all the nuances and influences I could trace back to my trip or recognize the origin of... There is definitely a lot going on but sadly the recording quality didn't seem to have always been determining factor in the choice of material. The release is dubbed as a CD of eastern-influenced experimental music, which it is, but I was a little concerned with its authenticity when I realized that pretty much all of the artists seem to be Americans (that's not to say americans can't be influenced, but I think I would have preferred to hear asians playing experimental music with some of their traditional roots in it instead of the opposite). However, once I got past my little self-inflicted disappointment I read up on what this CD presented and it seems that Noah Mickens actually knows his stuff and really cares ("from love our desire springs") so I intently listened to everything.
My favorite tracks are the two openers by Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra and Soriah (great Nahuatl chants") as well as Baba Larriji, Sikhara, Bill Horist, Refrigerator Mothers, F-Space but the CDs are full of interesting moments and interesting instrumentation (Tibetan singing bowls, Indonesian Gamelan, Chinese dulcimers, Indian sitar, Thai throat singing and all sort of tribal drums). The sonic palette and geographic reach are pretty broad and include all of Asia (the usual suspects plus Southeast Asia, India etc) as well as the Middle East. The tracks by the artists are interspersed by field recordings from Burma and India.
2 CDs, 25 artists, 156 minutes of music by Amps for Christ, Muslimgauze, Z'ev + Ramona Ponzini, Larry Trasher, Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra, Hop Frog's Drum Jster Devotional, Volcanosis, Pyramids on Mars, Auto Da Fe, Sikhara, Nequaquam Vacuum, Aditi Tahiti, Bill Horist, C.O.T.A., F-Space, Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan, Neung Phak, Regrigerator Morthers, Charles Powne, The Hop-Frog Kollectiv, Jerry Lloyd, Kamilsky, Metal Roughe, Moe! Staiano, Sardonik Grin, Catastrophic Mermaids on Parade & Soriah.
Definitely recommended to anyone with musical yellow fever...
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Artist: NADJA (@)
Title: Radiance Of Shadows
Format: CD
Label: Alien 8 Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Initially formed only by Aidan Baker (and then I reviewed his "Skin turns to Glass") Nadja turned the initial Sunn O))) approach into something more varied (remaining always into the doom metal realm) thanks to the help of the new member Leah Buckareff. RADIANCE OF SHADOWS is their fourth studio album (without counting the Cd-r releases which they are re-recording and reissuing) and it contains three tracks (two new ones and I think a new version of "I have tasted the fire inside your mouth", previously available as a 3" CD-r). The album opens with the 23' of "Now I become death the destroyer of worlds", a track which slowly leads you toward a path made of guitar drones, cripple drum rhythms and tiny melodies which sound like brush hits on a black canvas. The track has different moments where the sound hit a high level of saturation just to drop down and start again to grow, reaching an higher level. The aforementioned "I have tasted the fire inside your mouth", instead is based more on a song structure that you can compare to a slowed down and distorted version of Codeine. Here you can find also some lyrics about the effect of an involving love. The song, after about 15' of slow noisy introspection, pushes the speed/distortion pedal by becoming a roller coaster of emotions/sounds with wall of sounds and stops and go. Maybe this is the one I appreciated most... The closing "Radiance of shadows" has lyrics which seems to talk again about total love where men burned down to ashes by the intensity of passion, penetrate into the lover's skin and causes the melting of the two turning them into a shadow. The track starts with a minimal guitar riff and the voice of Aidan and then it blasts off after nine minutes (maybe when it reaches the meltdown point) just to burn everything down during the remaining twenty minutes.
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Artist: Sikhara
Title: Bardos State
Format: CD
Label: Urck Records (@)
Rated: *****
Sikhara (not Shakira) is a nomad tribal percussion band that performed in 26 countries and three continents. "Bardos State" (their second release, collectively put out by Radon, Soopa and Urck records) is a collection of live recordings that took place between 2003 and 2005 in Osaka (Japan), Brooklyn, NY and Linz (Austria).
Expect thundering rhythms on different type of drums and bells, mixed in with, and interleaved by, noise, electronic vocal processing and occasional chants. If you need references think of a sonicly maximized blend of Les Tambours Du Bronx, Merzbow, SRL, Neurosis, Einsturzende Neubauten, Dive and stuff like that.
The men behind all of this are founder Scott Nydegger and french drummer Yann Geoffriaud (from George Bitch Jr.). Sikhara is part of the Radon Collective (an international community of touring experimental artists) and often play with ex-Can frontman Dam Suzuki. Very interesting record I urck you to check out!
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Artist: Annie Barker (@)
Title: Moutians and Tumult
Format: CD
Label: Beautiful Revolution records
Rated: *****
Emerging LA artist Annie Barker's lovely music will easily (and justifiably) remind many of you Cocteau Twins. No coincidence, because Twins' Robin Guthrie produced and played guitars, bass and drums. With Robin's aid and solid experience in this genre, Annie decisively reaches for cloud nine and delivers a fluffy and celestial ethereal sound without compromising her message or the indie alt-pop approach of the instrumental arrangements. When you listen to the lush and beautiful guitars, Lycia and Bethany Curve come to mind. Annie's voice on the other hand might summon up memories of Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Adrienne Arno and of course Elizabeth Fraser. It would almost be too easy and convenient to lean back and get enthralled, however the attention-demanding lyrics will make sure to keep you on the edge of that inviting reclining chair. Poignant words and definitely out of the ordinary for this kind of record (quoting: Gwyneth Paltrow, hands in critics' pockets, you talk about my daddy with a smurk so I just wanna break your jaw and get the hell out of this place, sausage fingers and so on and so forth); they almost act as a constant reminder that you ought to stay awake and enjoy in between a state of semi-awareness and semi-blissfully ignorant enjoyment.
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