Music Reviews



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Artist: X-Bax
Title: 'Twas The Night Before X-Bax
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
If you really think Christmas music is all Mariah Carey and Bing Crosby, think again. Admittedly it’s only the misleading track and EP titles that make this a ‘Christmas record’ in any way shape or form, which does seem to be cheating somewhat, but here’s a ‘festive’ (= not festive at all) release from Silber to scare your granny during Christmas dinner.

The centrepiece of the EP is fourteen-minute atmospheric epic “Panamanian Snow”, bolstered by five minutes of other bits & pieces. “Panamanian Snow” is a distant, ominous industrial hammering, a drone that’s part distant machinery part super-deep string instrument part synthesizer, and the supremely slow build-up of closer, smaller impacts and claps. After almost eight minutes a bell tolls, an implication of a change that doesn’t come; the industry continues unabated.

The opening two tracks “We Three Kings” and “Five Golden Rings” (which segue and are essentially the same piece with an arbitrary track break in the middle) are an overture of sorts, standalone discordant guitar power chords, sustained and distorted in an unsettling pattern.

Final track “Epiphany” is an anachronistic and playful guitar piece, starting from random flanges and fret slides before embarking on a simple riff that for a moment suggests this EP is ABOUT TO ROCK (get your index and little fingers ready) before looping and sustaining with an effect that’s a little like repeating the same word over and over so often that you start questioning how it sounds and it detaches from what it means.

Give me this over “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” any day.
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Artist: Nonconnah (@)
Title: Winter EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
“Winter” is a mellow collection of seven short atmospheres built around sustained, reverberant, slowly looping gentle guitar notes, bathed in icy tones and cold, smooth drones. Despite starting out with ‘proper’ guitars, heavy use of reverse effects throughout give things an ethereal, synthesized tone.

Nonconnah, the new monicker of Zach & Denny Corsa formerly known as Lost Trail, are now based in Tennessee, but to an outsider this sounds more like a sonic representation of the open whiteness found in Alaska- spacious, broad, quiet, with an emptiness that might mean melancholy to some listeners, freedom to others.

The faintly choral tone of “Snowplows” is mesmeric and it’s a genuine shame that it’s only three minutes long. Some tracks, like “Downhill Trailer”, stop rather abruptly, leaving you wishing these ideas had been fleshed out into an album rather than a twenty-minute EP.

Ostensibly this is part of Silber’s Christmas series, but don’t worry, there’s not a single sleigh bell in sight and there’s no reason why you couldn’t enjoy this mellow Wintery soundscape at any time...
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Artist: Fatal Casualties (@)
Title: Filter
Format: CD
Label: Seja Records (@)
Rated: *****
Stockholm, Sweden band Fatal Casualties - Stefan Ljungdahl (synths/drum machines) and Ivan Hirvonen (vocals) began in 1986 and were active from 1986-1991. During that time they recorded a bunch of (unreleased) demos and did live performances. Likely their music then was only heard locally. After a 21 year hiatus they reformed and put out a an EP called 'Paria' in 2012, and followed it up with an album titled 'Psalm' in 2014. Prior to this endeavor they could be categorized as experimental abrasive dark electronica. Here on 'Filter' there are some abrasive moments but it is far less reliant on harshness than it is on weirdness. The album consists of 10 tracks, and no two of them are alike, except that they're all strange; really really, strange. When I first popped the CD into my player, from the look on the cover I was expecting another one of those cynical and serious Scandinavian synthpop bands. Boy, was I ever in for a shock! On the opening track, "home from home" it sounds like Ivan is singing a bluesy murder ballad from the bottom of a well. Then, an intense drone takes over heralding in some abrasive semi-pop electronics. It's like Suicide meets The Residents with nodding approval by Tuxedo Moon! Damn, this is bizarre. One moment things are full on and the next minimal with a few notes being played. Ivan's vocals range from a maudlin whisper to plaintively deranged. Track 2, with one of the longest titles I have ever seen - "Jag Är Inte RÄdd För Dig, Men Jag Är RÄdd För Vad Du Gör Med Mig," is a medium-slow descent into nightmarish madness. From what I could make out of the lyrics though, they seem to be sung primarily in English. Not the case with all of the songs though; some are in Swedish, and I believable there is a little Finnish in there as well. "drown" is done a bit in the more pop traditional dark electro mode instrumentally but this is quite far afield from anything commercial. Ivan's voice is often processed with effects, but not so much that it becomes electronic itself. To a degree I'm reminded of the Legendary Pink Dots, especially in some of their lyrics, as on "drown" ("Once upon a time in a fairy tale, we used to laugh...") full of dark whimsy, hinting at something possibly more sinister. It only gets stranger as it goes on. "kramp' has voices that sound like they were channeled from beyond over a semi-industrial rhythmic background. The nightmarish world on the majority of 'Filter' is not of the gruesome or horrific kind; it is much more subtle- disorienting, disturbing and insanity inducing. I can't say that I liked everything on 'Filter' but there is enough that makes this really unique and worthy. Fatal Casualties' fan base is likely to be a small but dedicated one.
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Artist: Elektra (@)
Title: Elements of Fragments
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Blowpipe Records (@)
Rated: *****
When last we heard of Elektra Dekker back in 2015 she had forayed into Madonnaesque electropop with her EP, 'Suicide Siren.' The thing about Elektra's music is that you never know what you're going to get, and 'Elements of Fragments' is nearly as far away from 'Suicide Siren' as can be. First, there are no drums or percussion on any of the four tracks, except for the title track. Accompaniment is minimal (Keyboards and synthesizers only) and Elektra's voice is the main element throughout. What I am struck with most about this EP is how much Elektra reminds me of Jarboe on it; the less abrasive side of Jarboe of course. I think Elektra has a better voice, but I have always enjoyed Jarboe's work, and perhaps that's why this resonates so well with me. Most of the tracks are rather melancholic, with the possible exception of the title track, "Elements of Fragments" which sounds like Kate Bush going off into experimental electronica. The words on that one are sort of spoke-sung like poetry, rather than the full-blown melodies of the prior tracks. There is a lot of emotional depth to this EP, and the minimal musical backgrounds only serve to enhance it. There are two additional bonus tracks that I missed out on - "Atlantinea" (Asian Mix) and "Skin" (Stripped Instrumental) which you only get if you buy the download. Interestingly, the tracks "IFeel" and "Skin" were recording and arranged in 432Hz as opposed to the conventional A=440Hz, just a semitone step down difference. Some seem to think 432Hz is a better, more natural and relaxing frequency, but that's something that's been debated for a good long time. Why not download these songs yourself and make up your own mind as to how they affect you. I suspect that 'Elements of Fragments' is a transitional work for Elektra, and who knows where she will go on her next release.
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Artist: Dyr Faser
Title: Dyr Faser
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Silber Records (@)
Many of the Silber “5 in 5” series releases I’ve heard to date have been drones, atmospheres and noises. This seemingly self-titled “Dyr Faser” release is the closest to ‘pop’ I’ve heard them come. It’s a lo-fi, muddy collection of five miniature pop songs, all packed into one minute doses (well some of them go several seconds over that but who’s counting?) There’s a swaggering lethargy to some of it, like a grumpy New Order bumping into a drunk Depeche Mode in 1986. The lo-fi production gives you a slightly thin sound, with vocals bathed in reverb and heavy use of stereo separation that’s faintly discomforting.

Both “Just A Face” and “Only The Dark And I” sound like the first minute of longer songs abandoned or unfinished. “Until Then You” is a riff and soft breakbeat. “To Be Desired” has an interesting groove that’s got hints of the 1960’s White Noise experimental protopunk-with-oscillators over which a guitar wanders, ad libbing in search of a riff.

Particularly on “Take The One”, the combination of psychedelic effects, rough-edged electronics and thin-sounding twangy guitar is reminiscent of the before-they-were-famous sound of The Shamen, but without the catchy hooks that propelled that band into an utterly different world.

The Silber “5 in 5” concept series suits some artists better than others. There are some interesting ideas and definite potential swilling around, but unfortunately rather than feeling like a complete five-minute work, this is one of those that feels like a teasing sampler to build interest in their longer EP’s on Bandcamp.
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