Music Reviews



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Artist: Taylor Deupree
Title: Somi
Format: CD + Book
Label: 12K
“Somi” is an interesting exercise in the organic and analogue looping of a collection of extremely mellow, clean musical sounds sourced from an electric piano, a glockenspiel, and a Yahama DX7 synth. Using a handheld tape recorder for loops adds an ambience of electroacoustic sub-hiss and the occasional microtonal tape warp that was an unavoidable irritant in the 1980’s, now rebranded as a desirable sonic wash.

Rather than being looped digitally using a DAW, every repetition is played by hand, adding natural inconsistencies. Different instruments loop with different frequencies, subtly offsetting the phase relationships between each layer. The result is a sort of wildly strung-out music box effect, extremely sedentary plucked tones that arrive sharply but fade in a languid fashion.

The track “Evode” adds a smattering of darker undertones that ebb rather than arrive, but it’s a subtle variation that doesn’t really divert from the overall tone.

The complexity of the underlying analogue production are somewhat forgotten, as the end result is deceptively simple- a pure-toned, faintly romantic, sleep-inducing (in a good way) fifty-one minutes of calm.
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Artist: Agnes Hvizdalek (@)
Title: Index
Format: CD + Download
Label: Nakama Records (@)
Sometimes there can be a perception gap between the concept of a piece of sound art, and the tangible audio that forms the end product. In my opinion, this is such a case. On paper, “Index” is an engaging abstract vocal piece. One forty-seven-minute long track, recorded literally at the bottom of a chimney in a factory, Hvizdalek’s experimental vocal noises meld with the funneled-in external atmospheres of São Paulo, hybridising into something resembling an organic, living and breathing. Conceptually it’s very strong.

In practice somehow it’s less compelling. Hvizdalek’s adapt vocal work is capable of both purity and temper, but somehow, almost inexplicably, manages to avoid being beautiful. Some of the growling tones seem to be a parody of jazz, almost comedic. Sometimes it sounds like piano strings being tightened, at other points like dolphin conversation. Undoubtedly it’s technically extremely impressive but I’m afraid at times it sounds more like a vocal challenge than a performance, and it points it even sounds like gargling, or 1970’s Doctor Who monsters and aliens.

The layering of other elements is too light, a little too subtle, and inhibits a true sense of interaction between voice and surrounding. Much of it is only audible through headphones or in a good acoustic environment.

As a virtuoso piece of solo experimental vocal work, it’s impressive, and the concept behind it watertight, but the net result tends a little too much towards the inaccessible side of abstraction.
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Artist: Yannis Kyriakides
Title: Subvoice
Format: CD + Download
Label: Unsounds
This is an ambitious and expansive work, consisting of nine distinct pieces, each for a differently-sized ensemble and imbued with their own character, with an average length of just under twenty minutes per piece so that every piece stands on its own merits and has its own internal structure. The pieces were composed over a period of several years, have been performed separately, so there’s a case for suggesting that this is more of an anthology than an album.

Though thematically and politically this music connects to Cyprus, Venice and Byzantium, to me the general tone of the music is much colder. Barren atmospheres, hollow spaces, and long sustained strings with a slightly harsh metallic timbre, combine into something that I could’ve envisaged evolving in a Scandinavian warehouse. Generally it certainly doesn’t sound sun-blushed, nor does the use of politically charged themes related to the divisions in Cyprus seep through to the tone of the music itself.

Opener “Words And Songs Without Words” is a relatively straightforward (but award-winning) instrumental string piece, but second track “Paramyth” is a larger arrangement for piano, strings, woodwind and the voice of a Cypriot storyteller whose voice has been timestretched so extensively that every syllable becomes a lilting extended melodic phrase, treading awkwardly the line between sounding beautiful and sounding drunk.

“Toponymy” samples the contentious Greek and Turkish village names of Northern Cyprus and uses them percussively in a way that strongly reminded me of Asa-Chang & Junray’s “Hana”, one of my favourite introductory pieces so certainly a welcome comparison in my book. “Music For Viola” does what it says on the tin.

“Circadian Surveillance” is a mellow arrangement of improvisation-like glockenspiel noodling laid over time-compressed found sound of traffic and general activity from the Cypriot ‘Green Line’- challenging in principle, slightly mundane in practice.

“Der Komponist” is a very strong work, a large brass-heavy ensemble performing gradually evolving and suspenseful patterns that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It never languishes in mood like its companions, always navigating peaks and troughs, making it somewhat out of character. In the second half, short looped vocal samples and digital effects wade in, taking the tension up another level. It’s absolutely a stand-out and worth the price of admission for this track alone.

“Testudo” is a more insular arrangement of bass strings, playing with the mechanics of string instruments as equipment, coupled with squeaks and a Sophocles text fragment reinterpreted as ‘synthesized tortoise sounds’, no I am not making this stuff up.

“Politicus” is a fourteen-minute extract from a 12-hour original, subtitled “Dawn In The Giardini” it’s very akin to the old attempts to reinterpret birdsong and dawn chorus as musical score. Stabbed staccato piano riffs wander through acres of empty space. The final track, the twenty-five-minute-long “Oneiricon”, is even more spacious; occasional breaths of at least partially synthetic hollow chords flow gently in and out of the consciousness.

Collectively “Subvoice” is a coherent anthology of nine very strong standalone compositions, all exuding quality and deserving of attention, with “Der Komponist” a standout that deserves a very wide furthered audience.
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Artist: Antoine Chessex - Apartment House, Jérôme Noetinger (@)
Title: Plastic Concrete / Accumulation
Format: CD
Label: Bocian Records
Rated: *****
This enjoyable release includes two adventurous live sessions that the Swiss sound artist and composer Antoine Chessex (this guy, who is known to be one of the founding member of the followed doom-noise band Monno is a real wizard in finding a dark and sometimes poetical dimension to dirty sounds or other sonic 'scraps') held at Cafè Oto in two different moments with talented French electronic musician Jerome Noetinger (co-founder together cinematographers and performers Christophe Auger and Xavier Querel of Cellule D'Intervention Metamkine in 1987, which later became a record label and an appreciated distributor ) and Apartment House, the appreciated avant-garde/experimental ensemble created by the cellist Anton Lokoszevieze in 1995. This pot of musical voices succeeds in forging something vaguely musical, where the boundaries between music for soundtracks, improvisation and classical notation got relevantly blurred by reel to reel tape machines. The hissing chances of deforming sonic inputs and whooshing sounds of Noetinger's approach emphasizes or sometimes mitigates the swirling inferno of string-driven stridors - masterfully played by Gordon Mackay (violin), Hilary Sturt (violin), Bridget Carey (viola) and Anton Lukoszevieze (cello) -, where the listenable clues on both the opening and the end vehiculate the imagination towards an unlucky ship facing a ferocious storm in "Accumulation" (recorded live by James Dunn on 29th of April 2015). Noetinger's sonic freaks and dense electronic textures amalgamate the parade of figures that could be related to many different tricks used by soundtrack composers to highlight drama and act like combustible materials of the same data in the second part of "Plastic Concrete" (recorded on the 28th of February 2014), a session which could be somehow matched to the roaring fire for the imaginary funeral pyre of the evoked fictional elements.
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Artist: Chris Cobilis ft. Spektral Quartet w/ Kenneth Goldsmith
Title: This Is You
Format: LP
Label: Room40 (@)
Rated: *****
The idea behind this interesting conceptual project was supposedly fed by some screenings of America's Funniest Home Videos, the TV program produced by Vin Di Bona - mostly inspired by similar TV products, broadcasted by Japanese TV -, featuring the gangly anchoring and the snarky and vaguely derisive comment by Bob Saget as well as an extensive set of sound effects that got matched to a likewise broad set of homemade videos, documenting dubbed domestic animals, bizarre facial expressions of babies, slip-ups over any kind of surfaces (the most typical ones were plastic inflatable garden pools or gym stands) or during family's parties or wedding parties. Such a starting point is not related to some nostalgia at all, but it's rather a unpitiful and somehow innovative representation. This sort of specular mirroring of this subtly ridiculous way of satisfying the built desire of being on screen by a relevant part of Western society was somehow adapted to music and became a sort of animated graphical score and accompanying script for the Australian self-taught musician and composer Chris Cobilis, whose musical transcription was performed live in studio by Chicago's Spektral Quartet and conceptually espoused by well-known American poet Kenneth Goldsmith - founder of UbuWeb and author of ten books of poetry (his most recent one is "Wasting Time on the Internet"), mostly based on the so-called 'uncreative writing', aimed to focus on ignored fragments of mass culture, nothwithstanding its intent -. His rich baritone voice sounds a wise provocation (I particularly enjoyed the lesson about electricity introducing "Dust In The Gate" as well as many subtly mocking sentences) perfectly matches the set of sounds, which seems to emulate the sound effects I mentioned before or add an alternative soundtrack to that kind of TV programs (many clones of American's Funniest Home Videos invaded and keep on surviving on a plenty of TV channels in the world), which sounds filtered and adapted by a critical eye on this phenomenon. Masterfully mastered and recorded by Steve Albini.
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