Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Six Doors. A Housepig Compilation
Format: CD
Label: Housepig
Rated: *****
More great stuff from Housepig, a label which has quickly established as one of the most refreshing ones in the drone/noise grey area. This is indeed a sort of manifesto for the label, since many artists have already had releases on it (Unicorn, Oblong Box) and others will join soon (Bastard Noise, Luasa Raelon). The styles vary a lot, but somehow it all flows perfectly, from Unicorn's solemn loops and electronic screeches, to Aube's ever unbelievable single-source compositions (this time it's metal again), from Guilty Connector and Tabata psychedelic noise ("Trance oscillation from limbo"... the title DOES say it all) to Luasa Raelon's bleak synth washes and Oblong Box's low-end dark soundscape. Bastard Noise possibly offer the most surprising track, as, after an initial apocalyptic burst with the trademark hysterical rants, the piece evolves in an ambient drone which is almost keyboard-like... cleaner than any other ambient piece I've heard from them. To sum it up, this is one of the best samplers you can get in the field; could be worth buying for Aube alone, but really, all tracks have a top-notch standard.
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Artist: DARREN TATE
Title: The Elves Are Coming
Format: CD
Label: Twenty Hertz
Rated: *****
Tate's new solo disc on beloved Twenty Hertz sort of confirms my impression that he's the softer, more psychedelic side of the projects he was or is involved in (Ora, Monos), while Colin Potter could well be responsible for the darkest parts. Ok, whatever... "The Elves Are Coming", clothed in Tate's usual watercolours with pixies and mushrooms drawings (which honestly put me off a bit), features two lengthy tracks simply titled "chapters one and two". Tate basically layers (improvised?) recordings of guitars and keyboards (I think it's one of those organs with drum accompaniment presets as well), adds some effects, and merges it all with Daisuke Sukuzi's environmental field recordings. Give these ingredients to a less inspired or skilled artist, and you'll get an indigestible hotchpotch. But Tate has elve power on his side, and the two compositions are just great: multi-layered and full of details, they mesmerize you when apparently nothing's happening or changing. Reminded of an idle, scorching August afternoon laying on the grass.
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Artist: DEFRAKTOR
Title: Themes for The Lunatic
Format: CD
Label: Trinity Records
Rated: *****
More dark-tinged ambient music from Karsten Hamre (Penitent, Veiled Allusions, Arcane Art, Dense Vision Shrine etc.), and this time it's as stripped down as it could be: no martial drumming, no metal/rock/gothic influences, no symphonic keyboards (just a minimal pattern in the second track, "The Flood", whose melody incidentally reminded me of his other project The Flux Complex, if I'm not wrong)... Hamre has reduced everything to a low-end synth hum, distant metallic banging now and then, and other unidentified organic noises. It's probably not that thrilling in terms of composition, as everything is unbelievably minimal, but personally speaking I've found this one works very well as background music... not in a derogatory way, that is: you put the cd on and it lulls you while you're doing other things, or going to sleep. I definitely find more comfortable with this side of Hamre's rather than with his more bombastic works.
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Artist: Minerve (@)
Title: My Universe
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Dephyte Records (@)
Rated: *****
Five track CD with four remixes of the title track from German synthpop band Minerve. Why is it that SO many synthpop bands seem to want to play the Depeche Mode clone card? I don’t know about the rest of the world, but personally, I’m tired of hearing yet another electronic-based dance ensemble with a David Gahan wannabe crooning more insipid lyrics. Minerve is no exception. "My Universe" has all the earmarks of pop mediocrity – the words- "Tonight is all I dream of you, and everything we plan to do, but now you are so far from me, your smiling face, you gentle fingers, and every though of you will bring us together and each other closer... all I gave, all I found were your pictures in my songs, I just want to give my universe... all I am, all I feel, is an emptiness in me, I just want to give my universe... " hoo-boy. This is lame. Maybe this song got some play on the flavor of the week club circuit, but this is the last thing I’d want to hear on the radio, or even buy for that matter. (Dephyte Records couldn’t even bother to send me a REAL copy of the disc, they sent me a CD-R copy in the printed sleeve. What’s up with that??) Even as slickly produced as it is, four mixes of it is akin to sonic torture. And the last track, "Drifting In A Maze" certainly doesn’t save this maxi. Speaking of saving, do yourself a favor, save your money and skip this little piece of pop trash. It has about as much musical nourishment value as a big Mac with fries.
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Artist: MARSPITER
Title: ULTIONIS
Format: CD
Label: SOMNAMBULANT (@)
Distributor: Dark Music Domain
Rated: *****
Debut CD album from Marspiter – ULTIONIS ( Latin for "revenge") on the small Somnambulant label out of Redmond , WA show lots of promise for fans of neoclassical dark ambient. Subtle shades of muffled militant atmosphere that rises and falls in intensity but always seems to stick to the theme. Without going into the historical/ mythological background (suffice it to say that with track titles like "Gradauidus" and Legionis", you get the drift) of the concept, it is an effective war-oriented set-piece that takes a bleak mood and makes it even bleaker. The sonic blender that Michael Todd (the guy who IS Marspiter) seems to run his music and repeated sampled loops through seems to be set permanently on "churn". This has the effect of giving a thick aural ambience to the soundscape, which is very effective in one sense, but kind of disturbing in another. There is a definite lack of anything in the higher frequency range (anything over 1k or so) and so nuances tend to be submerged in the lower frequencies. There are times when I would have liked to have heard what was going on a little more clearly. One commendable note- no violent noise blasts, as can sometimes be the bane of an otherwise decent dark ambient album. Still, there is enough atmosphere here to make ULTIONIS an intriguing first effort, and worthy purchase. Good ritual music for unspeakable ceremonies, or even FRP gaming where you need an ambience of oppressive and foreboding doom. Since the CD is limited to only 300 copies (and a of this writing, hasn’t sold out yet) this could be quite a collector’s item. Should appeal to fans of In Slaughter Natives, Puissance, and a good chunk of the Cold Meat Industry roster.
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