Music Reviews



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Artist: PHILIP SAMARTZIS/KOZO INADA
Title: h [ ]
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Room40
Rated: *****
Along with the very nice quasi-3" ep with Lawrence English (see archive), Philip Samartzis has recently released, via the ever fine Room40, this 20-minute collaborative track with Japanese soundmaker Kozo Inada, who has several highly appreciated releases under his belt. "h [ ]" is surely no let down, coming off as one of the best mixes of avant electronics and location recordings that I've heard lately. The former element takes the form of high-pitched frequencies and drones and a few noise crackles, the latter features some remarkable cicadas and seagulls sounds, which are actually IN TUNE with the electronics, not just two layers pasted together. If the electronics+field recordings formula has become a genre in itself, you can hardly find better examples than this.
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Artist: Jack Or Jive (@)
Title: Issin 1988 - 2006
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
Label: Ultra-Mail Prod. (@)
Rated: *****
Already active since a long time, JACK OR JIVE have decided to celebrate their 20th anniversary with the release of this limited CD set, available in 900 normal editions and 100 special box sets. The rare special packaged and very nice designed 3-CD box set featuring besides three conceptual CD’s an artistic impressive created booklet providing several drawings by the female lead singer and main artist Chako, several background info, bio and discography of this Asiatic act. You got introduced into the diverse and mysterious sound worlds of this act, also a brief description about the compositional process is included. Edited and published by the Honk-Kong based label Ultra-Mail Prod. (which still needs to bring up a website...;-)), this package is one of the most outstanding works I’ve discovered so far! The band JACK OR JIVE featuring the imaginary female fronted Chako presents here unreleased recordings created over all the years of their long-time existence, but mostly completely new arranged and re-assembled. The music is as always the acoustic manifestation of Chako’s compositional efforts, stylistically based on Goth/Wave, Neo-Folk, Ambient and Ritual Industrial tunes – while all these genre-friendly monikers are still too limited to catch the whole musically horizon of this act. Their wide-spread cultural background they can integrate in almost all works, maybe this explains the fascination and mysticism behind this international renowned act. The CD’s are strictly separated under the monikers "Dark", "Light", and "Outside" – and somehow in the same vein the music is arranged. While the "Dark" CD features among others creepy and ominous sounding Ambient and Ritualistic drones and the whole mood is rather experimental and dark, the "Light" CD somehow clears up and brings up some more easier accessible works. "Outside" against to this looks and sounds a bit like the "live" side of the bands and can also integrate some improvised works – only possible and recorded for the moment. Chako’s voice and vocal cords have indeed a hard job to do to provide and fit with the required mood. Overall a must-have edition of a historically meaningful release for the fans and followers this act could gain world-wide.

DARK

1. Leave a temple
2. Wisdom from above
3. Chinese dragon
4. Solitary
5. Person of vision
6. The letter from the heaven
7. Nation which sank
to the sea
8. Four seasons
9. Lie in the palm of your own hands
10. Invulnerably
11. Riddance
12. Say goodbye
13. Lily dyed red

LIGHT

1. Star
2. Blue train
3. Floweret
4. Over
5. Rompish girl
6. Cross your hands
7. I will wait
8. Seashell ornament
9. Snow line
10. Brought to a head
11. Friends in Asia
12. And then
13. Autumnal leaves
14. His favorite book
15. Snow line 2
16. Advance together
17. Thank you

OUTSIDE

1. Next life / Flag stones
2. Show windows
3. Procession of mourners
4. Stare into the darkness
5. Sequent
6. A man in the moon
7. Reach across
8. Depletion of sensitivity
9. Capability for crisis management
10. So what?
11. Aberrations of youth
12. Row courage
13. Fragments of me 2
14. Zen riddle
15. The window
16. Spiritual echoes

Artist: Erdenstern (@)
Title: Into the Red
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Rated: *****
Part two in the Erdenstern epos "Into the red" deal with music that’s inspired by fighting monsters, ambushes and wistfully think of your loved ones back home.
The idea breath role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons but also fantasy literature and films.

The music is fantasy music, if such a genre exists? Music that would fit a fantasy film one could say. Erdenstern mix classical and medieval-folkloristic elements on the level of contemporary soundtracks. The music is not done by a real orchestra but sometimes sounds like it.
Their musical approach is in the narrative tradition of many classical composers atmospheres and images are created and the listener is taken onto a fantastic and adventurous journey.

Erdenstern do their thing very convincing and it’s not strange a band like this emerge.

The band releases the CDs on their own and that’s not a bad thing but I would love seeing them on a label. Erdenstern release way to fast and the CDs are so filled with songs that one easily gets lost among the them. Maybe (probably) the idea behind the music is to play it in the background.

More of bands like Erdenstern on labels and less of Mortis rip offs would be a good thing for the fantasy inspired dark ambient scene!
Artist: Encryption (@)
Title: Nosferamor
Format: CD
Label: Waerloga Records (@)
Rated: *****
Encryptions second album is called "Nosferamor" and it unveils the Vampire shroud of darkness, mysticism, love and pain. Behold the encounter of a mortal man and an undead beauty, folding into a heartbreaking love story. Fans that enjoy Autumn Tears and Dark sanctuary would most certainly like Encryptions "Nosferamor".
This CD is way better than their debut and that goes for everything on it. The voices, the melodies, the atmosphere, the FX and the compositions.

I think Lacrimas should take in some more musicians to spice up the songs as they sometimes feel a little to much synthetic.

Encryption has outdone themselves here with Nosferamor and most of all Lady Clarisse. Her voice, the lead instrument of the band, merges with the textures of those the musicians craft as it moves in and out of lyrics for the conveyance of emotions!
Sometimes haunting and sometimes beautiful.
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Artist: Arcana (@)
Title: Le Serpent Rouge
Format: CD
Label: Erebus Odora and Projekt (@)
Rated: *****
Arcana are one of the most known acts in the dark ambient scene of today. They often create atmosphere and fantasy beyond the world as we know it.

"Le Serpent Rouge" is released by the self owned label Erbus Odora and American label Projekt. On Projekt the band fit like a glove in that label.

Arcana have had a reputation about being a bit boring and monotone but "Le Serpent Rouge" is a step in a new direction for the band. That’s why it is such a pleasure to review this release.
Still, the band could mix it up a little bit more but this is a very cool step in the right direction.

The music is very much inspired by Dead Can Dance. A blend of dark ambient and folk music.

"Le Serpent Rouge" is a magical musical experience. At least sometimes!
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