Music Reviews

Artist: Råhypnos (@)
Title: Do We Want It?
Format: CD
Label: Heptown Records (@)
Rated: *****
Råhypnos is a darkwave band from Gothenburg, Sweden, consisting of Nadja Virgé and Pablo Rautenberg formed in 2015. Their debut was a self-titled EP in 2016. Both members sing and likely play all the instruments (guitars, bass, drums, keys) on the album although there are no individual credits. Something about the songs and their delivery reminds me of the more commercial side of The Swans, although one could hard call The Swans commercial; perhaps just the more accessible side of their music. Although there are other aspects that might be comparable to other (more darkwave) bands, it's just the way these two work together that reminds me of Gira and Jarboe. Granted, Råhypnos is generally less abrasive and depressive, but I think if Gira and Jarboe had stuck together they might have ended up sounding something like this. So with that in mind, I think Råhypnos sounds a bit more American than Nordic, although there are practically no American bands doing music like this now. Even Pablo's vocals have a sort of flat midwestern ring to them. Nadja's voice is strictly Euro though. (Sometimes reminds me of Claudia Brücken.) It's hard to pick a standout track on 'Do We Want It?' because it's one of those albums that has a certain flow to it and all the songs work well together in something like a song cycle. Brooding and melancholy but not hopeless, and brief with only 10 tracks at 32 minutes total. It way take a few listens to really get into, but worth putting the time in to do so.
Artist: Florian Grey (@)
Title: Ritus
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
Florian Grey is a German gothic rock band fronted by vocalist Florian Grey, with bandmates Von Marengo (guitars); Yannik "Rage" Bockelmann (drums); and Simon Zlotos (keyboards/bass). Hell Boulevard Frontmann Matteo Vdiva Fabiani also provides some guest vocals. 'Ritus' is their sophomore album after 2015's debut, 'Gone'. Mr. Grey was previously with the band Eve's End, and although he started this new enterprise as a solo project, it's developed into a regular full-time thing. One listen to 'Ritus' and it sounds like these guys have been around a lot longer than 2015. There's a professional quality to it that bespeaks lots of experience, and although some of that may be due to producer Hilton Theissen, it's Florian and the band that are doing the heavy lifting here. The first thing that makes this band stand out is Florian's strong, distinctive, melodic baritone vocals. Nothing gruff, screamo or harsh here, just an excellent voice. Next thing you may notice is the plethora of hooks, and while not all equally potent, there are enough standouts to make you want to hear them again, and that's a really big plus. Third is the musicianship and arrangements, both of which are impeccable. With all three going for the band, this is a killer combo. And it's not just the songs, but also the atmospherics which are important in gothic rock. Although the band does occasionally sound more alternative than goth (owing to a more pop-commercial than arcane appeal) there is enough dark matter to pull the listener back to the black. While I wouldn't call the band goth metal, Von's guitars have plenty of edge that often lean in that direction giving the band a certain toughness, especially on "Blucifer" (which opens the album), and "Relief," two of the best rockers on the album. Another song that deserves mention is "My Babylon," perhaps the real hit single off this album. From song to song there is plenty of variety- up, down, and mid tempos that keep the listeners engaged. And of course, all songs are sung in English. You know, some of the best gothic stuff is coming out of Germany these days (Such as the band The Cascades) and with Florian Grey's crossover appeal, they really should be popular in America as well. (Why can't we have talented bands like this here instead of the crop of whiney-ass millennials that always seem to be in the spotlight?) Unfortunately it's expensive to tour (especially in the States) and unless there's a big pile of money behind a band, it just can't happen. For my money though 'Ritus' is an excellent album, well worth purchasing, especially in an age of hit-or-miss efforts. You should visit Florian Grey's website too because it's very well done, better than mnany I've seen and that's another plus.
Artist: Debashis Sinha
Title: The White Dog
Format: LP
Label: Establishment Records
Toronto-based percussionist Debashis Sinha here draws on his South Asian-Canadian cultural heritage, taking a broad variety of acoustic and organic percussive elements and drawing them out into expressive and experimental pieces that blend jazzier Asian musical sounds with longer, more Western avantgarde soundscaping models. It reworks material from a live concert and previous work in audiovisual projects and film scores, though unless you’re already familiar with the material you wouldn’t know it, though it does help explain the diverse and arguably disconnected breadth of the material.

While some tracks like opener “Empyrean” and closer “Reverie” are quite thickly layered, textured and fairly jazzy, other pieces like “entr acte” are decidedly minimal, showcasing the live freeform percussion work by accompanying it only with gentle hums.

The English-language poetry that cuts in on “Thrum” is something of a shock to the system and not necessarily a welcome one in terms of atmosphere and meaning, before it unfolds into a really rather pleasant and glitchy pulsing electronica affair with an infectious and underused bassline that is reminiscent of some The Orb tracks. “Harmonium Part III” takes a minimal techno form in tripped-out directions, a direction which is pursued deeper and to great effect in “Part IV” which is a mesmeric track but does feel like it has lost sight of this album’s initial root.

It’s certainly a unique recipe of sounds, perhaps a little disjointed and confused in purpose at times but certainly an intriguing journey of a listening experience.
Artist: C.A.R.
Title: Pinned Down
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ransom Note Records
The story so far: so after being very positive about Chloe Raunet’s album “Pinned” (““a blend of supremely confident post-punk swagger with electronica twiddles, steady-walking house beats and just a dash of synthwave”), I was equally keen, if not more so, on the first remix package “Pinned Up” (“not a single duff or flat remix in here, which is rare, so full marks for this one”). Now for stage three- the second remix album, milking a good album just that little bit further.

After the dancefloor-friendly offerings of the first remix album, this one is described as “an entirely different kettle of fish, taking Raunet’s compositions in a number of weird and wonderful directions”, and there’s some truth in that, but don’t expect utterly weird and wonderful reinterpretations- steady 4/4 house beats and DJ-friendly structures are still the order of the day almost without exception.

As with the first release, it’s the track “Daughters” that gets the lion’s share of the remixes, making up 50% of the 8 tracks here. Peaking Lights do a downtempo disco-dub number that sets the tone and remains quite faithful to the original song structure. Khidja’s remix stays on the same lines, taking vocal slices for a bit of percussive patterning and switching to a two-note bassline that underpins a nice slow evolution in sound over the nearly ten-minute-long mix. Kasra V places the vocal into a new melodic arrangement that’s broad and brooding, while Moon Temple’s approach is squelchier and more introspective.

Inbetween every “Daughters” remix there’s a reversion of a different track. Fantastic Twins’ take on “This City” is another downtempo long disco-dub version with some nice percussive touches. Anna Lann’s version of “Cholera” is in the same wheelhouse but somewhat rumblier and slightly more techno.

Hologram Teens’ remix of “Heat” revisits the mid-2000’s heyday of indie-rock crossover (think DFA, LCD Soundsystem et al) with the poppiest track of the set, while Sutja Gutierrez’s version of “Strange Ways” also has shades of that indie-rock-dance crossover atmosphere, still thoroughly respecting the vocal (until some final twists) over a marginally flat indie-band-does-disco groove.

The album has probably been milked well and truly dry by now, but not before this second package of solid, downtempo remixes was created. It’s a probably enjoyable 54-minute bundle of long version excursions that won’t set your heart alight, but is still a great mood-setter.
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Karl Marx's 200th !
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Karlrecords
“Karl Marx’s 200th” is a charity record with a difference- or rather many differences- marking the 200th year of Marx’s birth (albeit with a release date which misses Marx’s actual birthday by over a month) with a non-ironic anti-capitalist consumer product from which all the proceeds will be donated to charities. To whom the proceeds will be donated is completely undisclosed into the press release- I’m assuming it won’t be the Republicans or the Conservatives.

Musically it’s two hours of a relatively un-mixed bag. Many of the artists have already put out releases reviewed on ChainDLK in their own right and could be said to be part of an established scene, and working within their comfort zones. Artists like Aidan Baker and Porya Hatami offer up unusual recipes of drones and electronic soundscaping, while tracks like AGF’s remix of “Capitalism Crashed” are more electronica-minded affairs with soft kicks, glitches and noise washes.

There are some exceptions to the consistency of the sound. For example, the album is wrapped up by a live acoustic song performance by Warnings. Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s offering is 90 seconds of sonic chaos built from looping guitars and odd percussive hits with a certain, perhaps unintentional, sense of daftness- similarly Gitter’s offering sounds dangerously close to a metal band arsing about. Nickolas Mohanna’s “La semaine sanglante” is enjoyably theatrical in parts, as is Guido Möbius’s angular concoction of tape effects and teeth-grinding industrial and construction site noises.

Schneider TM, normally associated with somewhat mellower electronica, must have been having an angry day creating “Hand In Den Mund” which ends up sounding quite Venetian Snares-like in its brusqueness.

While other tracks like “Kali” use spoken-word vocals, Nicolas Wiese’s “The Revolution Will Have Been Youtubed #2”, revolving around spoken word samples looped and processed in a variety of ways, is the only piece that seems to tackle the themes of Karl Marx’s work in a verbalised and direct, albeit quite heavy-handed, way. All other references to Marx are more oblique- often just in the track titles, or notably in the poetry of Seda Mimarolu’s appropriately-titled “Circuitous”.

Highlights include Jasmine Guffond’s stark juxtaposition of gentle electric guitar patterns against harsh electronic noise in “Niche Service”, Pharoah Chromium’s sinister, gaming-environment-like “Der Zerfall des Systems”, Alexandre Babel’s energetic percussion work “Karlstag” and a crisp, strangely optimistic-sounding glitch-electronica of Mark Weiser’s “Kapital”.

Most of the pieces are kept rather short, so as to pack 28 pieces in, cutting some of the more interesting drone work a little before its prime, with only two pieces breaking the six minute barrier- Yr Lovely Dead Moon’s rather lush 11-minute feminine beat-poetry-driven devolving deep house workout “Kali”, and Caspar Brötzmann’s eight minute Silber-esque guitar drone “Marx Crash”.

Possibly the strangest charity record you’ll ever buy, at two hours long it’s a bumper value pack and if you’re a fan of avant garde electronica and also of the apparently anti-capitalist cause, then you should buy it, unironically.
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