Music Reviews



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Artist: Mana ERG (@)
Title: The Blind Watchmaker
Format: CD
Label: Glyptique (division of A.P.D.R.A.M.A./Organic) (@)
Rated: *****
Mana ERG's brand new "The Blind Watchmaker" (out June 15th, on a sub-division of one of France's best electronic music outlets) is the fifth release by Bruno De Angelis (after three tapes in the ninetees and the mini CD "Borderliners", 2002). Although the name is most definitely italian, I believe he lives in the UK, from where he has been producing music for this new release with illustrious guests and collaborators, including: Russian Electroshock records label-owner and electro-acoustic musician Artemiy Artemiev; German ex-Kluster pioneering ambient/techno artist Dieter Moebius; Musica Secreta and The Tallis Scholars renaissance music ensemble soprano singer Deborah Roberts; ex-Scorn & ex-Lull member and Metamorphic Journeyman magazine publisher Antony Burnham, a.k.a. Antonym; didgeridoo player and Oltre il Suono webzine creator Nihm; and Attrition's mastermind Martin Bowes, who mastered this record. So now that we know that there's definitely lots of brain behind all of this, let's deal with what really counts: the music of Mana ERG is hard to describe and hard to file; it covers many grounds and finds its strenght in rare qualities such as dynamism and eclecticism. "The Blind Watchmaker"'s multifaceted production extends from electronic to dark, in a journey that encompasses so many genres and influences that it's hard to even keep track of your own mood and state of mind as you are violently pulled through its smooth soundscapes. The overall sort of "noir" approach brings that nice ill and sinister halo to the table, and you'll definitely recognize influences of early NIN (in particular think of Reznor doing his nasty and dirty slow pieces with piano or guitar loops, much rather than him screaming away over walls of distortion) when the atmospheres get cloudy and slow or when Bruno's collaborators Joe Erber (piano/guitar) and Tiberio (guitar) add their touch to the ill-lighten suites. The addition of d'n'b breaks and other sophisticated rhythmical figures might remind you of Apell, some older Eno productions and definitely some late Clock DVA. Young Gods-type sonorities are ready to take off on the wings of buttered IDM loops that wouldn't look out of place in some Boards of Canada/Autechre or other Warp artist's album (probably thanks to the aid of DJ/producer Lee Stacey). Brusaschetto/Mudcake-like gentle noise-making gives the album that rough edge, and even though most corners are rounded off, you'll always feel the scratchy surface underneath the hovering layers of sounds. Of course Bowes' presence is not a coincidence, as Mana ERG definitely looks up to the sound of Attrition or of similar bands such as Die Form. Bastard, Legendary Pink Dots, Visions of Excess, Kapotte Muziek, Ivan Iusco/Nightmare Lodge are some of the other bands that populated my mind while going through these tracks... Utlimately the electronic texturing of the record really shows great attitude and consciousness and builds intense statements and ballsy presence on minimalist structures that convey great sense of musicianship. It's such a diverse recording you'll have to listen to it many many times to even get a grasp of its complexity, which is great considering how basic the instrumental approach is. I have been listening to this for a few days now and if I didn't have to move on to the next batch in the pile, I'd probably keep going to appreciate all of the shadows and shades of its wide palette and array of sonics. Great record.
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Artist: L.E.A.K./KOSMOPHON
Title: Duochromatic
Format: CD EP
Label: Fin de Siècle/(inhospitable) lab (@)
Rated: *****
Another split cd-ep co-released by Fin de Siècle and (inhospitable) lab, after the des Esseintes/Diskrepant one. L.E.A.K. (Lustige Elektro-Akustische Klaenge), who released "The old tea house" on Cold Meat Industry in 2001, offer one long track. Backward loops introduce a droning buddhist chant, swept away by a sudden burst of harsh noise, before more buddhist metal rattles and a cello (?) improvisation crawl in. Heavy percussive throbs serve as an almost constant background, while the last part has a more intimate ambience, with more backward samples, drones and a mechanical beat. It's an interesting and well constructed track, though I have a penchant for buddhist mantras and strings (here used in a pure, unfiltered form), so it's easy to win me over with that. Kosmophon is British artist Caesar Romero, who has released some kind of sleaze/spaghetti western thing that I'd be interested in hearing. These 2 tracks, on the contrary, are heavy analog synth stuff, with throbbing rhythms, distorted squeals, highpass galore... it sounds like a live recording, with variations over a single rhythmic pattern. Pretty wild and obsessive, on the brink of power electronics. It just gets a bit monotonous for my taste after a while, as it's just synth, but it's a tight performance.
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Artist: AKALA
Title: The end of the beginning
Format: CD EP
Label: Fin de Siècle Media (@)
Rated: *****
Akala is Lithuanian artist Rolandas Cikanavicius, who has also released a cd as "naj" on RRRecords and contributed to the dance performance "Extremum Mobile". Quite criptically, the back cover states that "this work is about the ever changing flow which re-incarnates the soul: transmigration. It is not just a sound, but also a state opposite to everything that can be reached through your senses". How this is related to the sounds presented I do not understand, but anyway. "The beginning" features distorted synth wooshes, equally distorted vocals, then - quite abruptly, and annoyingly - some seconds of muzak samples, and more industrial distortion. Old school industrial armageddon, but the sound is not that thick and distortion is about the only means used. "of" is a bit more ambient, with light drones, a repetitive beat and some backward sample. A Lithuanian vocal samples abruptly interrupts the more menacing final part. "The end" is the most interesting one, with bass-heavy drones, thundering feedbacks and distressed samples. I don't get the quiet piano samples, though. Akala's industrial noise/ambient is not bad per se, but lacks the crispness, power and ferocity that a good industrial record should have.
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Artist: BRIAN_AND_CHRIS
Title: Palimpsest
Format: 12"
Label: Dielectric Records
Rated: *****
Bay Area duo Brian(Fraser)_and_Chris(Palmatier) was formed in 1996, and released the eponymous cd in 2002 (This Record Label) and "Vectors" (Megalon) in 2003. They're responsible for The Recording Studio (Oakland, CA), started in 2002, as well as for intensive djing for WXYC college radio. I haven't listened to the previous releases, only to the recent (and impressive) contribution by Palmatier to the Dielectric Minimalist All Stars double disc. But "Palimpsest" is totally different, of course. brian_and_chris mix rhythmic electronica, breakbeat and (post-?) rock with a taste for easy-listening, but thoughtfully composite tunes. I could compare them to Tortoise circa-"TNT", but much more "rock", in a wide sense. A positive thing is that you can't easy recognize what is played, programmed or sampled, and the four tracks work really well in this sense. Melodies are memorable but not banal, and while I usually can't stomach breakbeat, the rhythmic thing is well managed and varied. "I can hear it in my truck" has some funky guitar giving way to almost epic riffing, mating with nostalgic piano passages; "Crossing (LP mix)" is more jazzy and obscure, with glitches, fractured beats, live drumming and a noir piano - but then again, the guitar adds a catchy riff, and the last part is a sort of upbeat, rocking instrumental. Definitely my fave. A successful release, which should appeal both to the IDM-electronic and the indie rock crowd.
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Artist: THE DAWN VISITORS (@)
Title: Hybridize
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Coming from Belgium The Dawn Visitors arrived with HYBRIDIZE to their fifth release. The four tracks of this MCD are incredibly convincing and listening to The Dawn Visitors is like having a link between the past (Roxane's voice sometimes remembered me Siouxsie Sioux) and the future (the band's music contains elements of '80s goth rock but being well integrated in nowadays electronic sound). "Don't say we don't mind", "Space Shift", "U-415" and "Be Perfect" (which is a sort of hit single for my tastes) are catchy without being too danceable or fashion. Even if they use electronic gear their music has nothing to do with modern electronic bands you can find into the alternative charts and this is a good thing because they aren't chained to a genre which could affect their creativity.
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