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Artist: RUKKANOR
Title: Despartica - Face One
Format: CD
Label: War Office Propaganda (@)
Rated: *****
Few days ago I reviewed Rukkanor's "Ende" MCD and today the listening of DESPARTICA - FACE ONE surprised me. If on Robert's previous release war and martial rhythms/sounds were the main element, DESPARTICA - FACE ONE is a multifaceted project based on poems written on the last two centuries. Robert picked the ones that were fitting best his feelings about nowadays situation. Following the track list we have: "The death bed" by Thomas Hood, "Beauty and beauty" by Rupert Brooke, "I Am" by John Clar, "A poison tree" by William Blake, "Before the world was made" by William Butler Yeats, "Anthem for doomed youth" by Wilfred Owen, "A divine image - song of experience" by William Blake, "Jerusalem" by William Blake, "The Old Woman" by Joseph Campbell and "Echo" by Christina Georgina Rossetti. Musically we have martial rhythms with few industrial sounds (there are a lot of orchestrations along with percussions) and a blend of dark ambient and post punk atmospheres and if you'll be surprised to listen to ten "sung" (it's more a declamation to be true) tracks you'll be surprised as well to hear guitars, bass guitars here and there painting a different sound. Rukkanor on this album was able to turn is sound into something different, something which adapt the sound to the different songs. So, if on "Before the world was made" we have a piano / strings duet with some basic percussion, "Jerusalem" has a guitar performing a mid-oriental melody and a typical oriental set of percussions. Surprisingly "The old woman" recalled me the sound of the Rain Three Crow project (the only record produced by Japan on their reunion). I loved "Ende" and I liked also this new album and I'm suggesting you to check this project!
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Artist: ATARAXIA (@)
Title: Kremasta Nera
Format: CD
Label: Ark Records (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece Distribution
Rated: *****
This is the new album from the Italian band ATARAXIA, whose discography would take ten minutes to be told, considering all the albums, DVDs, solo projects and collaborations they did in nearly twenty years. But surely they are a band than doesn’t need a presentation anymore. What emerges listening to their albums is that, since the beginning, they had a distinguished and recognizable style and every new record, even though always adding something new, gives you what you expect from them and never disappoints. KREMASTA NERA is not an exception and surely every previous fan will appreciate it, but at the same time adds more influences that make their sound even more intense and expands their stylistic horizons. The concept of the album is about Axieros, the White Goddess of the Greek isle of Samothrace, and explores the religious beliefs and rituals that her followers had to practice. "Kremasta Nera" enriches the usual medieval sound of ATARAXIA with a strong influence from ancient music, with Hellenistic and Oriental influences, and transports you in a historical era submerged by the dust of centuries, where you will dance around the fire and listen to hypnotic mantras leading you to trance. The use of ethnic percussions (both acoustic and electric), played by the guest musician Riccardo Spaggiari, adds that right element that makes this album really wonderful, like in "The Nine Rituals", "Ochram" or "Kaviria" just to mention few. Francesca Nicoli’ enhances her vocal skills, alternating chant, recitation, ritual lamentations or other influences I could say from African singing (in "Ochram" I thought there was a Senegalese guest singer). I think the ritualistic and theatrical musical approach find its top in "Therma", so obsessive it evokes visions as in a delirium or in ecstatic trance, while in "Ebur" an unexpected electric guitar adds a lacerating melody to a powerful and cadenced track that’s perfect for a colossal movie. But this isn’t the only dimension you’ll find in "Kremasta Nera", that also gives pearls of sweetness (more similar to the "traditional" music of the band) like "Fengari" or "La Fame e la Danza" where classic guitar and keyboard pads support an Italian singing full of sadness and melancholy. Definitely, an album pervaded by the perfume of exotic incenses and burning torches, deep and intense, to be listened at medium-high volume (or headphones with closed eyes) to be completely submerged by visions. It’s a door to a forgotten age, if you dare to discover it.
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Artist: Ova Looven
Title: Gravity Has Expired
Format: 12"
Label: Artikal (@)
Rated: *****
Two words to describe this album: hell yeah! First off, the packaging for this record is very nice. Heavy black packaging and deep maroon vinyl cut for 45 speed on one side and 33 on the other. This is surprisingly good glitchy synthpop - nice droning atmospheres and heavily processed guitar mixed with subdued vocals. The glitchiness is not full on like Venetian Snares - if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll be disappointed. Ova Looven uses glitch as punctuation. The first time I heard it, I thought that the record had skipped. It is sometimes difficult to make out what the singer is saying, but I don’t think it matters much. It almost seems like the vocals are just another way to create the atmosphere. And atmosphere is what this album is all about. The tracks blend into each other to create a sense of unity. For those of us who like comparisons, here goes: take the tone of "Black Celebration"-era Depeche Mode, the heavily reverbed guitars of old Durutti Column and Cocteau Twins, add a dash of Frazier Chorus Brit-pop and a bit of glitch and you have Ova Looven. I would highly recommend this. Only one track wasn’t outstanding – "Fields of Lucid Trees" was a bit repetitive and not as interesting as the previous tracks, but that’s probably only because the other ones were so great. It’s limited to 500 copies, so drop them an email.
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Artist: Landing (@)
Title: Gravitational IV
Format: 12"
Label: Equation Records (@)
Rated: *****
Some bands defy description and Landing is one of those bands. Whether you are looking for noisy dissonance or ethereal music that would be at home on Hyperium’s "Heavenly Voices" compilations, this album has something for you. The album opens up with some beats, a bass line, some synth washes and some vocals that I couldn’t really make out. Not bad, but nothing too amazing. Then the magic starts. "Gravitational V" brings in heavily reverbed guitar and a beautiful ethereal female voice. The sound is somewhere between Cranes and old Love Spirals Downwards until it slowly becomes noisier and more chaotic until it stops cold. This is, for me, the standout track on the album. "Sunlight" brings in a repetitive synth line with a nice drone and just a hint of female vocals that give a feeling of a child’s lullaby. "Scenes Upon the Trees" brings in male vocals and a peaceful guitar melody and concludes Side A. Side B takes things in a completely different direction. "Gravitational III pt. II" is a wonderful pulsating psychedelic wall of noise that sounds like all of the members of the band just decided to jam. The becomes much more distorted until fading out. The next segment sounds like another track, but it’s just a continuation, becoming much harsher. Even so, this is not noise music, but just heavily overdriven guitar playing distorted quarter notes. This segment is not quite as complex, but still retains a kind of continuity. "Gravitational VI," the final track on the album, opens with what sounds like synthesized bagpipes that loop on each other until fading out to leave a simple drum beat and warbling synth. This has a good groove, and if the synth were taken out it would sound like Dif Juz. Overall, this is a really interesting album and well worth checking out. It’s difficult to find artists that cover a lot of different ground and do it well. I enjoyed the entire album, and that alone is difficult to pull off. This album is limited to 450 copies pressed on heavy 180g vinyl with a nice gatefold cover. If you are looking for something a bit different, check it out before it goes out of print.
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Artist: Fear Falls Burning (@)
Title: I’m One of Those Monsters Numb With Grace
Format: 12"
Label: Equation Records (@)
Rated: *****
This is a side project of the artist better known as Vidna Obmana. First a few disclaimers. I really enjoy Vidna Obmana’s work. Second, I don’t have a problem when artists branch out into noisier realms – I like both Raison d'être and Stratvm Terror). This is my introduction to Fear Falls Burning and I came at this album with a predjudice toward enjoying it. Unfortunately, I really only enjoyed about half of the album. Here’s how Fear Falls Burning describes his work on the official website: "With all the power, noise, aggression and subtlety that comes from a single man performing real-time on the electric guitar through a maze of pedal effects, notes and chords shifting and multiplying over time into dense and trance-inducing walls of sound." This is pretty accurate, but let’s talk about the specifics of this album. This album is broken up into two tracks, each taking up an entire side. The track titled "I’m one of those monsters" starts with distorted guitar chords that continue through most of the track and form a kind of rhythm. Eventually, there is a drone that enters, which becomes more complex over time but doesn’t really seem to go anywhere until about halfway through when it becomes a bit more dissonant with high pitched drone. About ¾ of the way through the guitar ends and only the drone remains. At this point, it sounds like a cross between Vidna Obmana and Jliat. The guitar just didn’t seem to fit and made the track seem more repetitive than it really had to be. The other side, "Numb With Grace," was much more engaging. This was more straight drone that begins more subdued, but with staticy elements emerging at times. This track was also more dissonant than the previous one. At about 2/3 of the way through, the track brings in some feedback and seems to become more unstable. I kept waiting for it to completely unravel but it doesn’t. The liner notes say to play this album at high volume, so I expected this to be much harsher (I think that the only band that can legitimately get away with that ploy is Controlled Bleeding!) Overall, this is ok, but not stellar – but even Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time he went up to bat. My wife thought it was good background music and she isn’t too into experimental music, so this may be a good introduction. The album is beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve and mine was heavy gold vinyl. This album is limited to 399 copies, so completists will definitely want to act fast. If you like guitar drone, this is definitely worth checking out.
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