Music Reviews



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Artist: AIDAN BAKER
Title: Dog Fox Gone to Ground
Format: CD
Label: AFE Records
Rated: *****
I can surely spare commentaries on Canadian experimental guitarist Aidan Baker, since his solid (and much deserved!) reputation is growing more and more, thanks to an uncommon mix of talent, prolificity and quality. Over the last few months (those that I have spent waiting to eventually write this review, that is), he has released a disc on Small Voices, one on Gears of Sand, one on Die Stadt, plus new material of his other projects ARC and Nadja, and surely a lot more I've missed. This cdr on AFE Records, coming with the usual nice cardboard cover, is limited to 100 copies (most of them will be gone by now, so hurry up if you're interested),and is surely no leftover material. I would even say that as a whole this is the best disc I heard from him, and I do like his other records a lot. The five untitled tracks, clocking in at 50 minutes, were recorded using only an acoustic guitar and a set of effect pedals, without any further overdub. Well, Baker must have been in a true state of grace, because this is one of his most hypnotic, but also varied, works. The first track starts in an almost percussive way, with the use of looped clusters, reaching a dramatic crescendo with the layering of bowed strings. Tracks two and three explore the more serene and intimistic side of his playing, with minimal but effective gestures: plucking, strumming, some delay... Track four, with its vertigo-inducing repetitions and noise bursts, and the fifth and final one (starting subdued and melancholic, not unlike some Ambarchi, then reaching a climax with a very intense bowing), plunge you back in the ecstatic mood of track one. Everything is powerful and physical (you do realize this was played live, which is not always a good thing for ambient/drones records), but also very cohesive and focused - witnessing more than ever Baker's uncommon talent and vision.
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Artist: SKY BURIAL
Title: Spectrehorse
Format: CD
Label: Audio Immolation Industries
Rated: *****
I've hailed Sky Burial's eponymous cdr on Housepig as one of the most interesting and fresh debuts that I listened to over the last few months, thanks to its ecstatic mix of mostly string-originated drones, hypnotic loops and minimal percussion. Right from its grim cover, its follow-up "Spectrehorse" shows that Michael Page has decided not to replicate that formula, which he could have easily done ad nauseam - so kudos to him for that. This second disc is a definitely more obscure, heavy and merciless beast, evoking barren ghost villages rather than lush landscapes. It would be far too easy to write that this sounds like a spin-off of Page's main project, Fire In The Head, and it would be also untrue. Sky Burial has maintained the droning, atmospheric element but plunged it in a midnight black tinge. The pitch-shifted guitar (or bass?) sounds on the title track add a twisted industrial doom sound, while the similar use of rhythmic loops in the following "Smoke Sky Horizon" has a vague dub feel. The album, however, tends to get darker and even more abstract as it progresses, with low-end drones submerged by a feedback crescendo ("Down and Down and Down"), wailing distortion ("Straightjacket Sonata"), spiralling drones ("Justice, Just Ice, Just Us") and the gaping chasms of "Chroma Polaris". It is not surprising that the only glimpse of vital reaction (ahem...) comes from the remix version of "To Mock a Killing Bird", the best track from the debut disc and, in my opinion, the best one here as well. As a whole, I must admit I still have to make up my mind about the disc - it is very good in itself, with a welcome physical approach to the dark ambient style, but now and then I've missed the variety of the Housepig release. On the other hand, it wins in terms of construction and layering, which show how Page is getting more mature and complex with Sky Burial just like with FITH. He probably hasn't found a perfect balance of his epic side and his depressive, darker one yet, but the album surely gets a thumb up from me.
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Artist: UNTER NULL (@)
Title: Absolution EP
Format: CD EP
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Soulfood
Rated: *****
The second chapter of the new UNTER NULL twin EP set is only limited to 1000 exemplars – and I really must ask why? So only 1000 people world-wide will be able to unite the "twins" here and can get the fully special artwork. Come on, which sense does this make? So one thing is for sure – this EP will be sold-out soon, if you think on the unexpected success Erica Dunham could earn with only one EP and CD released before. This "Absolution EP" features like the twin 8 tracks in all, 3 originals including the marvelous "Prophecy" and the both pieces "Disgrace" and "Endtime". "Disgrace" features again (and again, and again...) the ominous synth layers, which get more and more to a special trademark in Erica’s music. The magically "Prophecy" is again featured in its original version, While "Endtime" can be called as being the main track here, because this one receives here 3 very different remix works by MNEMONIC, SCHLAUT and XP8. The MNEMONIC remix has a special IDM feeling while offering the scary mood of the original version. This marvelous remix seemed to impress also the responsible people at Alfa Matrix, because it got placed to the first position to open this EP. I have never heard before of a project called FIRST BLACK POPE, but their remix on "Prophecy" brings another interesting element to UNTER NULL’s music with some heavy guitar sounds turning it almost into a Metal/Crossover piece. Well, the well done original tracks do it again for me, although there’s no really need to include the original "Prophecy" again. Of course you now have to hurry up to pick up both EP’s, because especially this "Absolution EP" should be soon a hard-to-get item.
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Artist: UNTER NULL (@)
Title: Sacrament EP
Format: CD EP
Label: Alfa Matrix (@)
Distributor: Soulfood
Rated: *****
It was indeed a doubtful and not very tasteful promotional effort to announce the news that Mrs. NULL aka Erica Dunham would be pregnant and would give life to "twins" – real babies. But however – it has worked very well and here we have the "result". A double EP set with a special kind of artwork which shows only the real kind if you add chapter two, the "Absolution" EP to this first edition, which comes in a special DCD jewel case. Although that the given stuff here of both EP’s offers in all 16 tracks and the playing time of a filled full length release, the Alfa Matrix HQ decided to offer this special package, so I see it also as two different releases and therefor it receives two reviews. So here’s the start with this "Sacrament EP", which offers 4 new tracks originally composed by Erica and some remix works. "Prophecy" is the main track here, a Dark Electro track featuring ominous synth layers, diverse rhythm patterns and also some experiments on Erica’s angry vocals. A little compositional masterpiece, although not very dancefloor-friendly – this of course changes with the both tracks "This Is Your End" and "Playing The Fool". Although that Erica still got thrown into the harsh EBM scene with the related domination of SUICIDE COMMANDO and comparable colleges, I see UNTER NULL musically in a different kind. Her combination between real Dark Electro-inspired synth layers and rhythm patterns taken out of different styles like Electro, Trance, up to IDM is unique and authentic. This is surely also the result of the work of Len Lemeire of IMPLANT, who has done some production on this twin EP set. Another fine example of her style is the track "Watch You Die". Although starting simple with an often heard bass line, Erica shows some musically depth by including some subtle and melodic piano play. As for the remix works, 4 tracks got here some manipulation. "Endtime", originally available on the mentioned "Absolution EP", got reworked by the great label colleges of INURE and it gets my vote for being the best piece here. This remix unites well the mood of UNTER NULL with the refreshing Electro arrangements of INURE. The further remix works done by ADAM X ("Disgrace", also originally available on the "Absolution EP"), T3CHNOPHOB1A ("This Is Your End") and BLANK ("Prophecy") aren’t bad at all, but they stand a lot in the shadow of the originals. From her kind and from her presence on stage, Erica surely fits with the mentioned leading acts of the Harsh EBM genre, for the music I beg to differ. Here are so much more ideas and musically depth available, that it would almost an insult to press this fine female-leaded act into a redundant genre. Well done release, let’s have a look to the twin EP now...
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Artist: VITOR JOAQUIM
Title: Flow
Format: CD
Label: Cr˛nica (@)
Rated: *****
Portuguese multimedia artist Vitor Joaquim has traced a singular path over the last 25 years starting with improvised music in 1982 and then composing for dance, theater, cinema, video, installations and multimedia. "Flow" is his latest work on the Crónica label. The main concept here is the confrontation between voice and computer and in almost all the tracks we can find heavily processed breathings and whispers among the swarming layers of processed instruments or even a sensual female voice(Filipa Hora's) as in the second track. Ranging from dissonant glitch to languid and dreamlike sounds with bursts of high-speed grainy loops - "Flow" is a complex work, only sometimes indulging in melodic moments. A fresh update to Markus Popp's lesson and surely a perfect listening for the autumn and winter to come.
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