Music Reviews



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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Ignoble Vermine - A Tribute To Ptose
Format: CD
Label: GAZUL RECORDS (@)
Distributor: Musea Records
Rated: *****
When I first listened to this CD, I thought it was just one band called Ignobile Vermine. Since the text on the CD cover is all in French, I admit I wasn’t paying too much attention. My first thought was, wow, kind of a diverse band here. After doing a little Internet digging, I found that this was a compilation CD of FIFTEEN different bands over nineteen tracks, all doing a tribute to some band I never heard of called Ptose. (There’s a long line over the "o" in Ptose, if that makes any difference.) My second thought was, "so who the heck is Ptose, and why have I never heard of them"? A little more digging, and I come to find that they’ve been around since 1979, and they’re France’s answer to The Residents, although they seem to have more musically in common with Renaldo and the Loaf than The Residents. That explains a lot of what I thought about the music I heard on the CD. Similarities to The Residents abound. Okay, but since I’ve never actually heard Ptose, all I have to go on is what I think of the music in general, and not how well these bands are "tributing" Ptose. That being said, let me tell you what I think. My sentiment on The Residents has always been mixed. I’ve heard and owned a number of their albums. I’ve seen them live. Some of their stuff can be great, and some amateurishly awful. The tracks on this CD seem to mirror my sentiments to a tee. Rather than go into the track titles, I’ll just focus on the bands. First up, LES HAUTS DE PLAFONDS. Their track is kind of a pop-pourri of a little melody and some schizzy backing tracks over a rhythm machine rhythmic background, which morphs into a different minimal melody with a little spoken word over it. Likeable enough, perhaps one of the more "normal" tracks on the CD. Second track by BOSCO really reminded me a lot off The Residents "Fingerprints" album. More intense drum machine (The Residents as I recall in their early days tended to use played percussion) a buzzy repeating synth bass line, and call & response vocal chanting with a chorus of lower vocals vs. a higher falsetto vocal. Nonsensical perhaps, but still kind of engaging. This may be one of the better tracks on the CD. Has a real vintage Residents feel. LAURENT PERNICE & PAKITO BOLINO are up next with a chaotic noise-driven piece of insanity with some pretty wacky loops avant piano, and a slew of changes that get more interesting each time you listen to it. I’m no real noise fan, but it’s well worth wading through. These guys pack a lot into 3:46. KLIMPEREI have three tracks on this CD. The first begins with a melancholic guitar based melody just seems to peter out once it gets going. The second is a bouncy little circus-style number that reflects Residents style whimsy in the melody with harmonium and guitar juxtaposition. Nice little piece. The last track by them is just a 46 second idea, is cute, but lacks development. Next band, LA SOCIETE DES TIMIDES A LA PARADE DES OISEAUX begins their track with an odd glockenspiel melody, some low woodwinds and ominous guitar staccato picking and scraping. Over that a raspy voice intones, "Here come the boogey-man, he’s going to call you... .". Drums come in and the guitar beefs up, the vocals get more intense and frenetic as the song gets progressively stronger and louder. Very much like Tuxedomoon on a rock-bender with Winston Tong fronting on vocals. Avant rock enthusiasts may like this track very much. I thought it was a little derivative. SERVOVALVE follows with a long, repetitive sequenced synth track that throws some odd percussive elements, processed spoken word, other synth sounds, etc. There just wasn’t enough here to sustain my interest over six minutes. Following that comes LEFDUP ET LEFDUP. This is a pretty cool track, maybe the closest thing to Industrial rock on the entire CD. Real drums (as far as I could tell, or great programming) saxophones, intelligible spooky sort of goth vocals, goofy melody line, but very likeable. I’ve changed my mind, may THIS is the best track on the CD. DELETED follow, and they have two tracks on the CD. Their first track sounded like a melted down jazz orchestra from the 20’s playing some melodic blues riff. Their second track is bit more avant rock in instrumentation and unfortunately ends too soon. They have potential. NORSCQ have the longest track on the CD at 8:23, but not the best in my estimation. I never was much of an "experimental guitar" fan, but if you are, you might enjoy it. To me, it tends to sound like an endless tuning session, and someone that just can’t play. I admit that I just ended up skipping ahead on this track, and it did develop into something with guitar squawks over a bass riff, but for me it was just too much, too little, too late. PIERRE BASTIEN ET MECANIUM was up next, with a creepy, creaky, wheezy little track about a ghost. I wouldn’t doubt the majority of the sonics here were made from violin and saw. Quite inventive. PALO ALTO featuring EMIKO OTA follows. It’s probably what you might expect from a Japanese experimental music artist. Ota has a fair amount of credentials on the experimental music scene, and although the track comes off with a lot less whimsy than the bulk of the material on this CD, it makes for some diversity. Some nice juxtapositions on this one. CHAZAM is up next with a percussion heavy track, thrumping bass line, silly synth lead and chanted vocals in French. Some overdriven lead guitar adds to the mix. Nothing special here. PHONEME offers an eerie little downtempo instrumental synth ditty punctuated by white noise stabs and a low processed vocal at the very end. Nice. TOUPIDEK LIMONADE use a kazoo throughout their track along with recorder, bass, guitar and percussion. Although it sounds like one of the less developed tracks on the CD, it at least brings back some Residents-style whimsicality. DRAGIBUS do the same song as BOSCO did earlier with less effective results. The CD closes out with NON FINITO ORCHESTRA doing a medley of Ptose songs and it certainly sounds like an appropriate ending for this CD. Extremely well done insanity. Maybe THIS is the best track on the CD. Maybe I should go back and listen to the whole CD again. No, on second thought I think YOU should listen to the CD. Available through Musea Records and definitely recommended to Residents fans and fans of avant rock.
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Artist: Dolmen
Title: Terra Firma
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu Recordings (@)
Distributor: Skean Dhu Recordings
Rated: *****
Sometimes it’s difficult to categorize certain types of music, even when a cursory listening yields familiar impressions of other artists within the plethora of genres and sub-genres that milieu of our known musical universe. Let’s take the Ambient category, for reference. A purist might believe that in order for a recording to qualify as "Ambient", it should be quiet, unobtrusive background sonics. Brian Eno, the pop step-father of Ambient music is quoted as setting these parameters: " Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting. " Vague, but precise in and of its own accord. Ino order to accommodate forms that deviate from this definition, sub-categories were developed- Organic Ambient, Nature-Inspired Ambient, Dark Ambient, Industrial Ambient, Isolationist Ambient, et al. But when an artist mixes elements from these very fifferent sub-genres, how do you define that? Even more, how do you describe or even compare to known artists within the sub-genre, without giving a false impression of what music is really like? That is the dilemna with Dolmen’s "Terra Firma". It never really stays put I one subcategory, and perhaps that’s the reason for its eclecticism. Dolmen is a collaboration betweeen visual/sound artist Steven K. Smith and ambient/ installation artist Jason Sloan. Smith is from Cleveland, and Sloan from Baltimore. Just the fact that this project came together over the distance is amazing. (I also discovered they had a prior release in 2002 called "Ritual Awakening". As to the music, you will hear a LOT of different influences, yet "Terra Firma" comes off not as a melange of styles, but as a fairly cohesive whole work. The title track opens the CD, with a soundtrack-like quality that sets a mysterious, oblique mood. It does almost seem like it’s going to conform to the Eno definition of "Ambient", until the intense drumwork rises out of the echoey netherworld they’ve created. Once the percussive barrage begins about half-way through the track, its evident we’ve shifted gears into Industrial Ambient. As it continues to rise, just when you thought it couldn’t get more intense, it does. Sort of like Pink Floyd’s "Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun" without any concession to rock or pop music, in fact without any restraint at all. Probably not the best thing to listen to after dropping a tab of LSD. Then again, maybe that’s the kind of intensity you’re looking for. The next track, "Wishes That Weigh" is quite a different story. Mild percusion with breath-like drones and a subtle, simple series of notes, perhaps on muffled guitar. Very nice chillout from the intensity of the first track. "Bleedingbeginbegone" offers more in the way of drone, and encroaches on Robert Rich/ Steve Roach territory. Not a bad thing at all. It does reach a point of intensity, then subsides. Smith and Sloan are very adept at creating thick soundscapes that don’t just drift aimlessly along. A definite plus. "Heaven Smells Like Sulfer And Static" explores some of the nuances of lower frequency vibrations, and gradually morphs into a noisy, congested miasma that squeezes you through to the other side of a parallel universe. Maybe I’m being a bit too imaginative here, but I don’t know how else to describe it. You’re certainly not where you began with this one. The title "100 Miles From Home" treads into the "Nature-Inspired Ambient" subcategory, with the sound of a stream, birds, wind and the sustained, modulating moaning drone of some distant horn. There is also a little muffled guitar in the background. No description of the components of this track can really illustrate how sonically effective it all is. Marvelous. That track easily slides into "Red Stained Lips", a lazy little number that really might remind you of early Steve Roach. Not content to drift, Dolmen quadruple-time the percusion half-way through the piece adding some sonic variables that enhance the journey. By the conclusion, it all calms down on a could of filtered resonent synth drone."Love Tonight Today" is perhaps the most tribal/ ritual piece on the CD, due to the percussion. It’s medium-slow with a most interesting mixture of thickening sonics off this duo’s pallette. It could have gone on for another ten minutes and I’d still be happy. Final track, "White Blood Of Blind Wisdom" is almost like too much of a good thing. The atmosphere gets really thick and noisy. The percusiion stops dead in the middle and it really begins to sound like a hellacious shitstorm. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. Obviously, my least favorite track.; I’m sure the artists had their reason for it. In spite of the last track, I’d still recommend this CD to the sonically adventurous. This CD has been compared to Zoviet France, Sigur Ros, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Rapoon, etc., but it goes places none of them have ever gone before. The only question is, is this YOUR destination?
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Hefty 10 Digest + Prefuse 73 Mixtape
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Hefty (@)
Distributor: Wide
Rated: *****

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To celebrate the ten years anniversary of Hefty Records, here comes this double compilation HEFTY 10 DIGEST. It gathers sixteen tracks/bands on the first CD and a Prefuse 73’s mixtape on the second one. Here Sott Herren uses label's released and unreleased stuff mixing them in an hour long session. With the sixteen songs of the first CD you can check the different musical styles produced by the label: elegant electro (Savath + Savalas, Euphone and Samadha), jazzy minimal upbeat (Phil Ranelin), electro funk (Slicker), experimental pop (Bill Ding), minimal breakbeat (Telefon Tel Aviv, John Hughes, Beneath Autumn Sky and Retina.it) and alternative rock (Ilium). The PREFUSE 73 MIXTAPE is more interesting for me because the polished atmospheres typical of some bands are treated with sandpaper and the beat result the main thing. In this way the various bands like Mondii, Eliot Lipp, Slicker, Some Water and Sun, Scott Herren and John Hughes, Retina.it, to name few, are there to serve the supreme divinity: the rhythm. Don't get me wrong, there's still melody and everything on the final result, but Prefuse 73 did a good job giving to his set a sense and a direction I enjoyed.
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anymore
Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Berlin Insane III
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Pale Music (@)
Rated: *****
Pale Music since three years ago organize each year a show called Berlin Insane that is held at the Club 103 in Berlin. Each year different bands and dj heat up the dance floor of the club with catching melodies and distorted rhythms (check also the website www.berlin-insane.com for more info on the Berlin Insane club tour). Compiled by The Scandals the third volume of BERLIN INSANE compilation present forty tracks of "sex rock and sleazy electronics" (as stated on the cover). The first CD contains nineteen tracks and it is more focused on the electro/techno side of dance music. Within the others you can find: Einsturzende Neubauten’s Rudi Moser bring us "Solo n.1" a dark track based on bass guitar and light metallic percussions, Miss Yetti picked up a minimal techno track titled "Never come back" from her latest album "Insights", Punx Soundcheck are present with "Vanity, poverty, revenge" with Marc Almond on vocals, Näd Mika is here with "Too intense" (an electro punk track coming from her upcoming album "Electronic beat bitch"), Bruder & Kronstädta with "Yalla" present a track influenced by hip hop, techno and punk, Atomizer with "Ball & chain" remembered me early Fischerspooner, Cycle with "Apple tree" incarnate an electro version of Pretenders, Bakterielle Infektion whip their synths to bring us "Actors on stage" which recalled me the atmospheres of Normal’s "Warm leatherette", The Drugs with "Liv'n die 4 Rock 'n' Rol" incarnate a mix of Cramps and D.A.F., Sexo Y Droga with "Hot hot woman" recalled me bands like Nine Pound Hammer (they were on Crypt). CD2 contains mostly bands that focus their sound on the punk side. Bands like: The Nothings (their "I like drugs" is really a punk 77 track), Junesex ("Get’s close to mine" sounds like Blondie with electro instruments), Kesse Teens ("Chica chica" recalled me Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Kook’s "Club Gorgeus" is electro, punk and funk at the same time, Quasimodo Jones ("Cannibal woman" sounds like Devo on acid) while Monotekktoni with "I have done" seems a goth band with a broken sample (but they are really interesting). With Liquid Ice we are back on the electro side with the beautiful ambient robotic "Ignorance bliss". BERLIN INSANE III is a good chance to check the health of the new electro/techno scene and believe me if I tell you that it is in good health!
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anymore
Artist: ACT NOIR (@)
Title: Automatisme Psychique
Format: CD
Label: My Kingdom Music (@)
Distributor: Masterpiece Distribution
Rated: *****

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Born at the end of the 90s from the ashes of an electronic goth band called Alma Mater, Act Noir started to work at their sound soon after. The tuning of the new sound took different time and during the three years that Sergio lived in Denmark, he found Nicholas (the actual singer) which already was the singer of The Universals (a space rock band). From that moment with a defined line up the band started to work at their first songs. The work ended up into their first five tracks demo CD titled "Cosmo minimized". AUTOMATISME PSYCHIQUE has been released three years after their first MCD and it contains nine songs and two remixes (an electro e.b.m. version of "Unheimlich" and the Act Noir version of Monumentum’s "Distance". Track that already was included into "Metastasi"). Even if the songs have a structure with an opening and a sort or refrain, the band’s sound is based most on ambience that really on melody. The first six tracks create the effect of a sort of long ambient rock opera with songs that fade into the following ones. It’s like the band composed dark rock tunes just to dilate them adding, sometimes, upbeat moments (like on "This something") where the mellowness is suddenly interrupted. Try to imagine a dark rock version of Rain Tree Crow (do you remember the album that Japan did with that moniker?) with electronic inserts and you’ll pretty have a picture of Act Noir’s sound. Even if sometimes I lost the concentration during the listening because of the dreamy effect created, I have to admit that the band has a personal sound and charisma but in my opinion they work best on tracks like "Automatisme psychique" or "Swerved rooms" where they enrich their sound with good melody lines and some upbeat tempos.
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