Music Reviews



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Artist: Steve Roach and Loren Nerell (@)
Title: Terraform
Format: CD
Label: Soleilmoon (@)
Rated: *****
I had not previously heard Loren Nerell's work, but Steve Roach should need no introduction. Here’s how the Soleilmoon website describes it: "Heavily textured and mood altering, the long uninterrupted flow seemingly slows time down by way of the surreal dark ambient soundforms found in much of Roach's work. Nerell brings the steamy, evanescent blend of his mutated Indonesian sources, a signature sound that defines his previous releases for Amplexus, Side Effects and Soleilmoon." This is an interesting mix. The drones are familiar – it’s what I expect from Steve Roach. But there is a lot happening beneath the surface (that I assume is the work of Narell) which adds a lot more complexity than I am used to hearing in Roach’s work. The tracks bleed into each other, providing a good sense of continuity. And at almost 74 minutes, there is plenty of time to sink into the atmosphere.Overall, I am partial to the first two tracks on the disc, Cavity of Liquids and Ecopoiesis, which comprise about half the disc. The atmosphere is engaging, if not overly challenging. Sounds like there are natural sound source material woven in like crickets chirping, for example. Long drones with sounds emerging at times, only to resubmerge back into the sea of drones. Next up, we have Texture Wall, which, weighing in at over 28 minutes is the longest track on the album. It is also a shift in the feel of the disc. There are moments of sparseness that contrast with the complex, almost busy feel of the two preceeding tracks. But still, there are moments of underlying activity that keep it interesting. Paraterra is a nice conclusion to the disc, but by the time we reach it, Texture Wall had made the music fade into the background of whatever you were doing.The disc comes in DVD digipack packaging with postcards The artwork seems to be slot canyon stone imagery. Overall, this is a good release. Recommended.
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Artist: Stop By Fear (@)
Title: Momentum Into Nothingness
Format: CD
Label: Tequa Productions
Let’s start with the description from the press sheet that came with the disc: "Our music is a quintessential marriage of new music and the avant-garde. The group's combination of classical, new age, jazz, and urban hip-hop has created a powerful fusion. SBF composes music that sounds complex yet is easily assimilated by the listener. Polytonal chords, complex rhythms, pure energy and subliminal sounds create our distinctive musical sound." The main artist in this project, L. A. Jenkins states that he has been "composing and recording experimental / avant-garde music for over two decades." Ok, they have all of the buzzwords right. However, their expressed goal is to "venture into this diverse space [called] ambient music / experimental music." In this they fail to reach their goal. Let’s talk about the music. Overall, I would say that this will appeal to fans of smooth jazz. By that I do not mean the cheesy stuff you hear on adult contemporary radio. Rather, I mean jazz that maintains more ambient elements. It is peaceful kind of music. Track 1, "Outlook," begins promisingly enough with long drones, but then the saxophone (well, no one is listed as playing saxophone, but that’s what it sounds like) comes in and brings us into the realm of standard jazz. Track 4, "Look Out," is a bit repetitive, but still rather accessible. Track 5, "Unknown Man," begins promisinglydrones and a drum beat, with broken elelments of guitar that seem as if they had been spliced and put togetherbut about 2:30 into the track, we are once again greeted with the standard jazz formula then back and forth between the two styles. Even so, this is the standout track on the disc. Very enjoyable – if the rest of the disc was like this, they would be much better positioned to enter the market for ambient / experimental music. Track 6, "Smyle "M" Smyle," is a pretty straightforward funky jazz piece. Track 8, "One," is an interesting guitar piece with heavy drones sweeping through and some noisier guitar elements. Not too bad. Track 9, "The Man Danced Funny," is the most straightforward jazz piece on the disc. The disc ends with "Dog Time," a drum and cymbal-heavy piece that is the noisiest on the disc. Interesting, but at 1:40 it is much too short. If you want to hear some of their music, check out their myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/stopbyfear. In short, nothing here seems to really push the envelope. That’s not to say that this is a bad disc. It’s rather peaceful and would be a good disc to put on if you wanted background music. But if you are looking for experimental jazz that breaks boundaries, there are a lot of artists out there who fit the bill much more accurately.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Night
Format: CD
Label: Ozella Music (@)
If you are looking for easy listening, here is a compilation that you may be interested in. Unfortunately, I cannot read German, so the promo sheet that came with this does little for me. On to the music. From what I can tell, Ozella Music seems to be Germany’s answer to the Narada label. If this sounds good to you, read on. If you are confused, think mellow, downtempo new age music. With the title Night, I assume that this disc is meant to be music that is peaceful, calm, and quiet. This disc certainly lives up this image. Tere are some high points to this disc. "Kenya" by Andreas Leifeld, has a nice continuous drum beat that would appeal to the world music crowd. Of course this is not trying to be authentic (I hope) as it is a compilation of mostly electronic music, but it is pleasant listening and has a good vibe. "Ta-Ra-Ra" by Trio Bravo is a nice string piece that blends into a piano piece that reminds me of Nature and Organisation. This is definitely one of the standout tracks on the disc. "The Hopeless Kind" by Centrozoon is full of nice drones and synth passages that remind me of some of Vidna Obmana’s work. Overall, this is calm relaxing music that doesn’t demand too much of the listener, but it may be a bit too bland for many of chainDLK’s readers.
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Artist: Gerold Kukulenz
Title: Miles High
Format: CD
Label: Ozella Music (@)
I must admit that when I received this, I wasn’t too into it. I have my share of new agey synth-heavy funky electronic music in my collection, but I wasn’t too into this. This is way too lounge-y for my tastes. However, by the end of the second listen, it began to grow on me a little bit. The promo sheet that came with this disc states that Gerold Kukulenz’s aim is to "breathe life into electronic music, to tell stories without saying words, to create song-structures without singing." I must admit that he seems to fall a bit short on this. Overall, this is pretty much easy listening / lounge music. If you have someone who has resisted the idea of electronic music, this may be a good disc to get them. For my tastes, it was a bit too bland. Even so, there are some good tracks on this disc. Some of the high points include "Miles High," with sweeping synth pads and an undercurrent of appegiated notes, "Under Water," which maintains a smooth, atmospheric feel with a continuous lilting guitar line, and "Ocean," with slow moving drones and repetitive synth line. One notable low point is the opening track, "On the Nighttrain," which would sound at home on the Spice channel. I would say that the average ChainDLK reader is not looking for this type of music, but if you are looking for something that can serve as background music, but dark ambient is a bit too unstructured for your tastes, this may fit the bill. This is lounge music for the electronic age.
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Artist: Chris Liebing / Speedy J (@)
Title: Collabs 3000
Format: CD
Label: Novamute (@)
Rated: *****
It’s been quite a while since I’ve kept up with the techno scene. It’s changed a bit since I saw Orbital in concert 10 years ago. You’ve probably heard of these two, so you should know what to expect. If you haven’t, suffice it to say that these are two of the more high profile DJ/producers in the techno scene and have been for quite some time. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this disc is how stripped down it is. There is a lot of atmosphere on this disc and there is a lot of noise. After listening to it a few times, I have grown to really enjoy it. It starts off a bit noisy with "Lego," but becomes more dance friendly as we move into "Modish Ride." Triflon is distorted house beats with what sounds like distorted samples. Kind of fun in a cheesy sort of way. "Tunox" marks a shift in the disc and stands as one of the best tracks on the disc. Layers of distorted beats with layers of noise beneath. This is stuff that could be at home on the Ant-Zen label. People who like rhythmic noise should take note. As the disc progresses, the tracks become progressively more complex. Weighing in at 12:02, "Assault" is the longest track on the disc. It is also one that doesn’t fit with the others as well. The beats remain, but it is considerably more subdued than previous tracks. In a way, the track acts like the cool down period after what has just been an intense barrage of sound. This is far more atmospheric than the other tracks with a lot of depth and texture. I would have preferred this to be the closing track, but the last track, "Trikco Live" demonstrates what the it would sound like in the club. A lot more organ / synth than in the rest of the album and not quite as harsh, but still satisfying. Overall, if you like your techno more on the harsh side, this would be a good disc to pick up. One surprising aspect of this disc is how accessible it is. My wife, whose tastes tend toward the mundane and 80 brit pop liked this disc. I generally listen to noise and dark ambient and liked it. Pretty much everyone I’ve played it for has enjoyed it to some degree. This alone speaks well for the quality of the material.
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