Music Reviews



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Artist: IOVAE
Title: Civilization
Format: CD
Label: SNSE
Rated: *****
This is Iovae (aka Cincinnati's Ron Orovitz)'s second pro-released cd, after last year's "Quartervois" on Zarek, and a theory of limited run discs on Drone Disco, Chondritic, American Labels etc., including collaborations with Mammal and Burning Star Core. First of all, the cd looks extremely nice, with a b/w layout based on enlarged details of, I guess, an old engraving - minimal but very eye-catching. As for the sounds, Iovae is definitely a noisemaker - not overtly harsh and mean, but surely on the aggressive side of the spectrum. The recording is crisp throughout, but not much of the disc is really memorable for me. "Enlightenment" and "Grinder erupt", for example, are basically high end synth oscillations with some distortion, and that's it. Am I the only one to think that flat synth improvisations are a bit boring? All tracks sound like one-take recordings with minimum edits, and I guess they'd be nice live performances, but as they are they sound a bit unrefined. The opening "Formi", for instance, has some interesting shifts, but would have benefited from more layers or a more dynamic editing. My favourite track is the last one, "Ode to Schadenfreude", where turntable manipulation replaces the oscillators. Pitch shiftings, distortion and looping tecniques turn the original tune into a sort of menacing rumble - think of early Philip Jeck in a noisier version. Here the live feel is a plus and not a minus, and the piece definitely stands out from the more common noise tracks.
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Artist: CONTRASTATE
Title: False fangs for old warewolves
Format: CD
Label: Fin de Siecle media (@)
Rated: *****
"A really weird one", that's one the first impressions I got from the listening of "False fangs for old werewolves" and if you'll get this cd you'll probably agree with that impression. Contrastate should be "expired" for five years so far but if there's something that nobody can write or say about this cd is that it sounds "old fashioned" or "surpassed" (many of the songs are coming from the early nineties!). "Odd", that's a good adjective to describe the music of Contrastate. This retrospective should appear on the top of the want list of every dark/experimentalism listener but it could be of great interest for those looking for something that's "out of the ordinary" but with a great "phatos". Fin De Siecle Media wrote this band believed that "rather than trying to re-create studio material, new songs would have been specifically written to be performed live" and after I've read it I couldn't but think how intense their live performances should have been. A good studio work, many songs have a definite "isolationist-death ambient" cut, but there's also something really old that made me think of the early industrial/post-industrial projects like Coil, Current 93, Nurse with Wound and company, they don't remind of these bands (just the use of delays and some of the sounds) but they owe a lot to these people (who don't?!). Another interesting thing is that while their music is dead serious, Contrastate had/have a great sense of humor: while reading the notes included inside the booklet of this cd I thought they probably could have been the best people to hang out with but again it surprisingly "contrastates" with the feeling they create through their compositions.
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Artist: Little Plastic Pilots
Title: [s/t]
Format: CD
Label: Kanpai Records
Rated: *****
The debut CD of Little Plastic Pilots, brainchild of Los Angeles native and resident Sam Nelson, contains almost everything good about newer ambient electronica. A lot more emotional and introspective than, say, Lemon Jelly or Zero 7, LPP boasts an easygoing yet potent downtempo groove on tracks like the first, "Words and Letters In Color", and the fifth, "A Courtyard Full of Sun". The interspersed, minute-plus vignettes, such as "The Grumpy Chinaman" and "A Sam Is Born" give this disc a Moussorgsky-like "pictures at an exhibition" quality--you can just imagine little, secret stories unfolding.

Thankfully LPP is forward-looking enough in his sound not to revive too many trite 80s-style machine-musik artifacts, a retro mistake too many of his peers make. Nelson is developing a nice technique of rhythmically blending stuttering voice-samples and even some cheesy Speak-and-Spell syllables that occasionally add just the right hint of humor. Any more than that would be too much, but obviously he knows this, and stays on the correct side of clever.

This CD is already going in an utterly fantastic direction, but if the songs were somehow more sonically descriptive than they are, and the tracks a bit longer (or if there were simply more of the longer tracks), it would amount to nothing less than a sunshiny epic for the very near future. Which is when we'll hopefully be hearing from Little Plastic Pilots again.
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Artist: Superchumbo
Title: Wowie Zowie
Format: CD
Label: Twisted Records
Distributor: Beatport
Rated: *****
The most frustrating thing about dance music is that most of it becomes dated or overplayed within a couple of years, or sooner. Not only that, but the music in question may be in some sort of niche subgenre that perhaps even your close friends don't listen or dance to. When you actually care enough to wonder where all those hours and hours of dance tracks and influences wind up over the years, you certainly don't count on the Club crowd to care along with you. But I have a hard time imagining a release such as Wowie Zowie dating badly, if at all, and I can't imagine anyone *not* caring, once this is listened to.

As far as vocal House goes, this hard electro offering of Superchumbo's hits the spot. High-octane all the way through, WZ is extremely versatile in both the dancefloor and pop departments. Superchumbo, t/n Tom Stephan, is of American persuasion based in London (at the moment the world's most cosmopolitan city), and his international sensibility shows through really well. He treats his work with the best of all possible House influences, and all of his guest vocalists' performances shine through accordingly.

Keep in mind that these tracks are all original Superchumbo. Three had already been prior Billboard chart-toppers in the U.S.: "Irresistible", "This Beat Is," and the title track. Some of them are run together as "mixes", not blended but simply butted against one another, with tempos changing cleanly. This makes the CD both listenable as a continuous party mix, yet still useful for a working DJ situation. Listen for Samantha Fox orgasmically cooing on "Sugar", some salty language from Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys on "Tranquilizer", and Bashiyra on "U Know I Love It". My personal favorite, "Everything U", features Stephan's own vocals. A few tracks may appeal more to the gay side of the spectrum than the straight ("Bring It", "Filthy Dirty"); believe me when I say there is more than enough love to go around for everybody. Like I said earlier, Wowie Zowie should keep its lustre for quite a while.
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Artist: Angel of Decay (@)
Title: Covered in Scars
Format: CD
Label: Desolation House (@)
Rated: *****
Industrial music veteran Jonathan Canady, well known for his work in Dead World, Hollow Earth, and Deathpile, returns to the fold with a new name and an intensely desolate sound. Covered in Scars is the seventh installment in Relapse Records/Release Entertainment’s appropriately titled Desolation House series, showcasing stand-out dark ambient artists. Angel of Decay stands proudly next to projects by prolific artists including Bastard Noise, Brume, and Magwheels.

Quiet drones, ominous keys, and eerily hissed whispers swirl together into the bleak and unforgiven world that is Covered in Scars. Pulsing and dark, Canady takes his listeners through a cold, depressed soundscape that breathes tales of hopelessness and despair. This is not a light-hearted listen by any means. Covered in Scars is the perfect compliment for daring sleepers, inspiring and twisting dreamscapes through a quiet hell; or to play at any event that requires an eerie touch (and would be well accented by a fog machine).

Jonathan Canady has spent the better part of a decade creating some of the darkest, most alienating ambient available. Angel of Decay’s Covered in Scars readily meets and exceeds any expectations a fan of Canady’s work would have, and should serve to placate any fan of the genre.
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