Music Reviews



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Artist: Ljova (@)
Title: Vjola: "World on Four Strings"
Format: CD
Label: Kapustnik records
Rated: *****

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Lev Zhurbin a.k.a. Ljova is a classically trained NY-based Russian viola player, film music composer and arranger with noteworthy credits in the music industry that include Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, Jay-Z, Bond, Matmos, Assif Tsahar, George Davidson, Savion Glover, Ryuchi Sakamoto, the Electric Light Orchestra and others.

As you might expect from such an eclectic artist, Ljova likes to bring together the musical heritage and culture from a number of different countries and regions, including China, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, Tanzania as well as gypsy music from Romania and France.
You will hear a lot of that in this debut CD of his, which presents 13 original compositions, a Bjork cover and a Romanian traditional piece. Beautiful arrangements of multiple tracks of viola drawing complex soundscapes, beautiful harmonies, intriguing dissonances, enchanting atmospheres and moving melancholic compositions that have a remarked taste for distant cultures and fashionably old.

Although this is a mostly viola-only record (except for one track where he is aided by accordionist Michael Ward-Bergeman and by an upright bass somewhere else), surprisingly this debut doesn't really feel over-played, prolix or self-indulgent for the most part. It is not a virtuoso solo album (although you can obviously detect the skills), but rather an album that takes a cinematic approach to the matter at hand and achieves a vision of moody, atmospheric classically-inspired experimental film-type music.
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Artist: HEAL
Title: Starting Back
Format: CD
Label: Sound On Probation (@)
Rated: *****
Laurent Perrier don't know rest, he's always working to something new. It is amazing that he's running a label where every project of its roster is headed by Laurent himself. This time after seven years from the previous album "Extension" we have a new CD by Heal. STARTING BACK is the most melodic work to date made by Laurent and if the first Heal album was approaching to dub and ambient just like the Scorn of the first period did, the new album changes everything by introducing elements of jazz, 70s progressive rock (check "Chute d'oreiller" and its approach a la Goblin) and hip hop. Blending everything just to compose an ideal soundtrack for a futuristic noir movie, Heal did something new where the dub element is still present and you can hear it by listening to the bass lines but the new influences enrich the sound creating a new and fresh mixture. The fifteen instrumental tracks sound mysterious and if you check "Mainmise" you'll be seduced by its oriental melodies. Good one!
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Artist: SYSTEM
Title: Tempo E.P.
Format: 12"
Label: Rump Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
After five years from their latest album released by Scape, System is back with a new four E.P. released by Denmark Rump Recordings. Each member of the trio has been busy with their solo projects (Future 3, Opiate, Dub Tractor and Acustic) and with production work and I presume this has been the reason why it took a while to make something new. The new release sees the trio dealing with dub-step and two-step but filtered with their personal way, made of subtle melodies, razor blade sharped drums (the way the rhythms are filtered make them sound like metal) and fragmented structures. The multi layered track sound particular thanks to the presence of cold sounds along with the dub treatment and the semi jazz melodies. Starting from few loops the tracks soon grow thanks to new sounds that create a digital gentle avalanche.
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Artist: ZU+ XABIER IRIONDO/ICEBURN
Title: s/t
Format: 10"
Label: Wallace (@)
Rated: *****
With incommensurable delay here we're reviewing this "jazz"(?)-core clash of titans counterpoising Zu (with Xabier Iriondo) and Iceburn. The mighty Zu with the help of mister Iriondo (from Uncode Duello/A Short Apnea’s fame) floats in a new (at least for them) electro-acoustical territory, but without losing their typical jazz-core obsessivity and their hard pounding "bass and drum" repetitivity. Due to the improvisational/experimental essence of the session and probably cause of the heavy hand of Iriondo behind the mixer, this side could be described well speaking about physical post-core music with a Brotzmanesque saxophonist melt in an intentionally chaotic, heavy, electro-acoustical pool. The real surprise has come when I started listening to the Iceburn side, but before that, let's speak about these trio from Salt Lake. Hailing from the capital of Mormons, Iceburn has left from evolved, emotionally charged, metal-core growing into something gradually more progressive, jazzy and probably they've reached the top in "Poetry of fire". Later they changed their moniker and augmented their line up becoming The Iceburn Collective and this final release is played in trio with Gentry e Chad from the historical line up. Well, they've been one of the most interesting jazz/progressive-core band of the nineties (and "post core" would be a limiting definition for such a band) and here you can enjoy one of their many evolutions. These four songs presents an unheard sludgy post-Krimson obsessive incarnation of Iceburn. Less free jazzy than the last period, heavy as hell, psychologically devastating, this could be the declaration of love from this glorious band to some of their "hard playing" inspirators and let's include in the list people like: Black Sabbath, Melvins, Rorschach, Amphetamine Reptile, Dazzling Killmen and a good part of the Skin Graft catalogue, Ornette Coleman, John Zorn's Naked City and Painkillers and god knows who else. About twelve minutes to lose yourself in complaint for their never so missed departure even if they’ve generated and reinforced bands like Colossamite and Gorge Trio.

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Artist: GETATCHEW MEKURIA & THE EX & GUEST
Title: Mon Anbessa
Format: CD
Label: Terp (@)
Rated: *****
First off: long life to The Ex! It's easy to fall in love with these dutch punks, they embody everything I've always wanted to be and I've never been: anarchists, smart, open minded, radical, classy and above all coherent. Lately I've had the luck to see them live together with Mohammed Jimmy Mohammed (r.i.p.) at the Zu fest and they still kick ass with they post punk virulence!. They've always been into experimenting with different ethnical music forms sometimes it worked while sometimes it was just an experiment, but like it or not in a world where sometimes anti globalization itself fight globalization in a standardized and pre-packaged way, well they're the last of many demonstration: "another world is possible"...but they've always been demonstrating it, therefore the next question is: "when Bregovich of ethnic music becomes fashionable is it for a real interest or just cause it’s the last in an endless list of trends?", anyhow that's not the case, therefore forgive my old fart divagation. The mix of The Ex-element with Getatchew Mekuria and Guest is out of the ordinary, sure, but not so far from what you can expect, at last we're talking of a band with a strong contradistinctive language, but the "unconventional factor" is the african aftertaste of this saxophonist that sometimes probably is also the responsible of some song structures and it means that's not a mere collaboration in which he's playing arranging those flying dutchs without having his say. Sometimes I think the music is damn catchy like in "Aynotche terabu shemonmwanaye" sometimes it's good but probably less functional, but maybe that's just a problem with my ethnically-untrained poor ears. A lot of jazz, funk reminiscences everywhere, even if sometimes are barely audible but never forget when speaking about jazz we always speak of the so called "afro-american culture". Let’s repeat it all together: "Long life to The Ex and to their friends!!!".
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