Music Reviews



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Artist: Leaf
Title: Made Into Self
Format: CD
Label: Suspicious Records (@)
Rated: *****
Leaf is Steve Wick (or just WICK, as he seems to prefer to be called) from Dallas Texas, and members of Biogliphic, 32nd Kalpa, Blunt Force, and other area producers, a melding of dirty hip hop rhythm, crystalline melodies, insane sampling, and smooth organic instrumentation. Or so the website info states. Influences admittedly are abstract trip hop/ hip-hop artists like DJ Shadow, DJ Spooky, DJ Signify, Subtle and Tricky. Although Leaf flirts with the dark side, the music never really gets in deep. The problem is that most of the compositions seem to lack development. It’s as if they could have really been something if the ideas were a little more expanded. Still, there are a number of strange motifs and atmospheres that make for good uneasy listening. One track, "Prism" had male and (mostly) female vocals that had a bluesy Portishead feel. That track could have gone on a little longer. Perhaps the best track on this CD is "Even Holy Things Die". The female vocals here aren’t dissimilar to Heather’s from Tapping the Vein, although I think Leaf may have had Mezzanine-era Massive Attack in mind. It ends with a rather long sample from some movie I’ve never seen, so I can’t identify it, but there are a number of spoken word/dialogue samples peppered throughout the tracks. Some of them work okay, some don’t. Even though "Made Into Self" is an uneven effort, it still might be worth checking out. You can sample most all the tracks off the Suspicious Records website, which is a pretty cool thing. That way, you don’t have to take my word for it. I’d be interested in hearing future releases from this artist. I feel like they have the potential to do some amazing stuff.
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Artist: Smokescreen (@)
Title: Activate
Format: CD
Label: Closet Space Records
Rated: *****
Jeeezuz, where the hell did all the new Goth/Industrial music go? It certainly isn’t here on this CD. I had grave doubts about even listening to it after I read the band’s promo. Any artist who actually says in their one-sheet "... is ready to be the next big music sensation." Should be avoided like the plague. Smokescreen claims to be an "experimental" alternative rock band. I don’t hear any experimentin’. The songs are about as forgettable as the next band, average sound, average vocals, average songwriting, nothing in particular to stand out. (Hey, maybe they WILL become the next big thing!) Just what modern college kids need, another alterna-rock outfit to fill the void of their pathetically empty lives. Well, I’m not buying that. Smokescreen seems to be led by the Holwerda brothers of Phoenix, AZ. Gus Holwerda (the lead vocalist) sports a bald pate in the Michael Stipe tradition and I think Luke Holwerda (lead guitaist) is guy with the sunglasses and goatee. Together they seem like they’re trying hard to keep the R.E.M. tradition alive. Kinda Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20, et al. I’m sure there’s some big-name band out there they sound a LOT like, and that’s the problem. Even in the alterna-rock world, there needs to be at least something that defines a band’s sound. Unfortunately, Smokescreen is an amalgam of all of them. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got a song on a movie or TV soundtrack, and that’s all they’d need to be the next flavor of the week. Pass on this one. It just doesn’t fit Chain D.L.K.’s musical oeuvre in any way, shape or form.
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Artist: CO.CASPAR.OSP (@)
Title: Labcopilation #2
Format: CD
Label: Paranoise Records (@)
Rated: *****
German label Paranoise Records presents a compilation of studio work in the industrial noise vein of spoken poetry set to sound BY German performance artist COCASPAR.OSP from 1998 to 2003. It’s a limited edition of 500 that includes a poster. Other labels have released most of the tracks but this is a good way to get a sampling OF COC.OSP’s (or CoCaspar, as I will refer to him for the duration of the review) work without having to hunt them all down individually. There are 9 tracks in all lasting a little over an hour. Beginning with a big BANG (not unlike a shaken vintage reverb chamber), "Thus Long Lights Light" is a miasmatic mix of strange birds and noise puffs and pops that gives way to a mélange of ambient voices, the kind you might find in a restaurant. One voice, reading a rather morbid bit of prose(?) emerges and takes the track to conclusion. I should mention that CoCaspar utilizes a rather electronically primitive assortment of paraphernalia consisting of tubes, wires, amplifiers, creaking chairs, etc. to generate his sonic atmosphere. This is actually a good thing, as it takes his expression far a field from the usual sampled fare that tends to dominate the dark ambient and noise genres. Some of the spoken word poetry/prose uses electronic voice processing and some does not. Those segments that did use the processing tended to have the voice a little too up-front giving the voice a separateness that I found to be a little too contrived. I felt that the readings worked best when the voice was unadorned and mixed in with the sound sculptures Cocaspar was creating. But hey, that’s just my opinion. I’m sure some listeners might disagree.For the most part, CoCaspar creates some deliciously malevolent atmospheres that rival vintage Coil in sonic turpitude. This can be heady intellectual stuff in a Nietchzean sort of way. The integration of spoken word with the sonics gives this "compilation" a cohesiveness that is often lacking on a regular release by many artists I’ve heard of late. A lot of people seem to have trouble pinning CoCaspar’s sound down; it’s quite unlike so many artists working in the darkambient/indstrial/noise genres. For lack of a better description, I can only say that CoCaspar creates his own reality via an "unreal" set of implements. It is quite nice that an artist like this can thrive (he’s got a LOT of releases out there, both audio and video) in a musical climate that has moved away from the electronic experimentation of the 80’s and 90’s. But then again, he’s a European artist and I’m sure they’re a lot more open-minded over there about fringe music. Fans of Coil’s more esoteric and less commercial ventures may appreciate this more than most.
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Artist: ARKTAU EOS (@)
Title: Mirrorion
Format: CD
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
This material is deeply evocative and deals with arcane audio structures. There are both dark elements and crystal sounds. It is an album by a Finnish duo with a very nice artwork! By listening to it, you will be like a traveller inside a quiet dimension where you are allowed and invited to dig your soul. It is interesting to notice that these recordings have been made with no electronic stuff, at least for the first phase. Silver River is probably the deepest moment of the album. The listener will get a strange pleasure in finding himself in a path full of darkness and light.
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Artist: JUNIOR BOYS (@)
Title: So This Is Goodbye
Format: CD
Label: Domino Records
Rated: *****

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Records like this really thrill those listeners who are into electro stuff. No ebm attitudes, no nostalgic synth pop clones but a fresh wave of modern music. Since the very first note of Double Shadow, analogue sounds surround you, machine boxes make you feel like a human robot. The approach is somehow minimal but at the same time full of nice arrangements as well. First time is simply a masterpiece! It has got a breathtaking change of tune, an elegant clarinet and a good use of the voice. Soft arpeggiators are often in pole position (they sometimes remind me of Water Lily by Sputnika) with tiny pads behind... Dreamy danceable music for sophisticated ears.
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