Music Reviews



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Artist: Akira Kosemura
Title: In The Dark Woods
Format: CD + DVD
Label: Schole (@)
Rated: *****
Ten years ago, Akira Kosemura was sneaking into many headphones and music lovers' heart of "western" world by means of the masterpiece "It's On Everything" (coming out on Lawerence English's Someone Good). Over ten years, I followed this brilliant artist through Schole Records, his playground and his label, through which he also released some stuff by artists (such as Quentin Sirjacq and Dakota Suite) akin to his style as well as his own albums. Ten years after that sort of debut by which he breached the gates of the hearts of many lovers of piano-driven music (many fans of musicians like Dustin O'Halloran, Nils Frahm or Max Richter got closer to Akira's outputs), he comes back by another set of piano fugues, "In The Dark Woods", where he kept many of the known features of his sound (the central role of piano, minimal but intense compositions, an elegant crossover between electronics and acoustics and, last but not least, an emotional set where a certain anxiety continuosly fades into a peaceful search for a contemplative symbiosis and an interplay with nature), but he developed an interesting theme on this new album: according to the introduction on the label's website '“Treasuring a serene feeling and an intimate conversation with oneself.” is the main concept of his new work, which recalls vivid emotions, as music goes into one’s body and feels a blood flow deep into a heart. As indicated in the title, an entire album is filled with an obscure darkness and a world of misty sounds never to be feared of, like a comfortable quietness in the dark where a child in the womb is hearing mother’s heartbeat'. Such a cross-over between dim and light emotional sets can explain the reason why he also composed a dedication to Laura Palmer, the notorious fictional character of David Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks, as well as the alternation of melodic moments, embracing slightly different dosages of obscurity and light, electronics and acoustics, whose core and apex lay in the two final tracks, the title track "In The Dark Woods" and the piano solo reprise "Letter From A Distance". As usual, Akira has regard for the visual aspect of his art by attached a DVD including five video clips, a booklet including snapshots of "In The Dark Woods" clip (featuring the dancer and reader Kimiho Hulbert and directed by Shin Kikuchi), a download coupon including another version of "Spark" as well as a very elegant package.
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Artist: Elizabeth Anderson
Title: Trilogie Janus
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: empreintes DIGITALes
“Trilogue Janus” is a collection of three sonic compilations, each almost exactly ten minutes, and each made up of shorter sonic vignettes collated and contrasted into a soundtrack that’s mostly frenetic- there are fleeting moments of calm due to a reduction in elements but the pace never really lets up fully.

It’s all about the electroacoustics here, with sound structures made out of organic found sounds, electric sparkles, and various shades of noise. Pitches shift and bend across the stereo field, at times almost comically squeaky, at other times almost impenetrably rumbling and deep. It’s rough-hewn at times and definitely reminiscent of some of the more energetic and sinister-sounding moments of the Radiophonic Workshop’s back catalogue, to the extent that with the possible exception of the mastering and the breadth of the EQ, it would be possible to believe that this was recorded over 20 years ago, but it wasn’t.

While each of the three pieces have more than a few elements in common, opener “L’éviel” ends up feeling the most sinister, spending a lot of time in the lower registers, whereas there’s something a little quirker about “Chat noir” and its twisting of higher-pitched bell tones. Of the three pieces, “Neon” has the most sedate sections, with flittering noises that sound like digital birdsong opening up into a bizarre alien parody of an idyllic countryside-meets-beachside environment, though this shatters and rebuilds in a manner more akin to the other tracks after the three minute mark.

“Trilogie Janus” is also, notably, the first empreintes DIGITALes digital-only release. Format purists will slate me for saying so but a release with such dynamics and use of pure tone notes was never ideally suited to analogue formats anyway so personally I welcome the shift.
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Artist: Žibuoklė Martinaitytė
Title: Horizons
Format: CD + Download
Label: Music Information Centre Lithuania
The prosaically named Music Information Centre Lithunia offer up another collection of surprising experimental twists on the classical music form, with five live pieces from ibuokl Martinaityt played by a variety of mostly large ensembles and orchestras, and recorded between 2006 and 2015.

The title track is an epic self-contained suite full of tension and drama with a decidedly cinematic bent. Suspense and horror in parts, action and chase adventure at times, hints of romance at the edges, it’s a remarkably well-rounded score with a bit of everything- discordant enough at times to feel provocative but still very accessible.

Second piece “The Blue Of Distance” is a much more sombre affair, driven by a vocal ensemble sustaining long tones reminiscent of Lygeti, with lovely use of rise and fall, before “Completely Embraced” shifted gears yet again into a world of tense piano hammering, militaristic drumming and tense brass and strings that gradually eases and unfurls into a more pastoral and relaxed environment.

“Thousand Doors” is another broad suite with multiple sections, again suggesting a filmic collection of tensions and dramas, this time with a more sparse general landscape, before we finish with violin near-solo “Serenity Diptychs” in which a violin traces sometimes Glass-like arpeggios interspersed with some more proactive pace changes, underpinned by an stunningly neat and refined use of drone atmosphere.

These are beautiful, accomplished and dynamic modern classic works and they collate well into a 68-minute listening experience that should appeal to both people approaching it from both a traditional orchestral mindset and people looking for something with a true edge.
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Artist: Zenjungle
Title: Fragmented Lives
Format: LP
Label: Midira Records
Greece-based Phil Gardelis uses his Zenjungle alias to offer up a 36-minute mish-mash of styles that blends both soft and harder-edged drones, and white and processed noises with some jazz saxophone, long violin-like notes and distorted dark guitar-like thrums into a genre-spanning arhythmic multi-stage sonic bath.

Digitally it’s one track, but on vinyl it’s split into two halves, “Anticipation” and “Realization”. “Anticipation” in the press release cites the Greek elections and reflects an optimism that positive change was approaching. But tellingly from the title, the second half is darker, with the emphasis more on distortion and the melancholic violin work, the realisation being that the new dawn is neither as bright nor as imminent as Greek people wished for.

There’s an aptness to the word ‘zen’ here, an inherent balance that is maintained despite the flow and ebb of different layers resulting in something that, despite its harsh edges, ends up being surprisingly meditative. The varying combination of different layers keeps things gently moving in a steady stream, never challenging, never too disorientating, leaving you with a strangely warm-yet-sombre mood at the end, which in terms of this work’s purpose, should certainly be regarded as a success.
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Artist: N [54]
Title: Suedfall
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Midira Records
The 54th release from Hellmut Neidhardt’s prolific N project comprises two different versions of the title work, which in itself is a spacious drone and glacially slow unfolding melody forming a very icy, bright yet barren soundscape.

The A side is a live recording of the 2011 premiere performance, performed in Christuskirche Bochum and with a distinctly hollow, churchy aura. Subtle distortions add to the cold crispness of the atmosphere and over its 19-minute course it gradually unfolds and escalates into something which adds a hint of danger to the sense of abandonment.

The B side is a new studio version, the existence of which was triggered by its inclusion in a short film. Putting additional electrified violin work firmly at the fore, this version is distinctly cleaner. More rounded, synthetic organ- and bell-like notes bring the melodic elements into clearer relief, and we progress towards something purer and more violin-led as it evolves this time, and a particularly slow fade away leaves the listener in a much calmer space.

It’s a slick and polished bit of frosty sound layering with quite a purist attitude, and while in part I did have a slight sense of “I’ve heard this before” because of the familiar tones, let that not take anything away from the quality of proceedings here.
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