Music Reviews



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Artist: Sasha
Title: FundacionNYC
Format: CD
Label: Global Underground
Rated: *****
This is the mix CD behind superstar DJ Sasha's bi-coastal U.S. jaunt this summer, featuring his new all-digital custom mixer, the Maven. Sasha's own design, the Maven stores his tracks all ready for playback, at which point he cuts, loops, splices and drops partial elements from each one into the live mix in real time howsoever he chooses--so as to create a uniquely and spontaneously remixed track, each and every time. Assuming the device was used in this recording (the presskit's language was awfully slippery about it), Sasha indeed turns in some eerie and interesting treatments to his chosen tracks.

And what an eclectic clutch of tracks it is: what starts out at a rather sleepy pace (mellow electro- and deep-house cuts by Adam Johnson, Swayzak, Beanfield) gives way to so-called "forgotten classics" such as an electro-reworking of Depeche Mode's "Behind the Wheel." Then a strange and wonderful thing happens. The CD's lively electro-housey midsection segues into a 6/8 time signature--at the most crucial point in a DJ's set when he most needs to keep his listeners on the dancefloor. Because, right around the corner from the bumpin' house, we're suddenly loping along to Freaky Chakra's "Blacklight Fantasy," sitting (as it were) zen-like on a giant day-glo mushroom. Unbelievable! Did Sasha's tough New York City crowd actually go for that? Let's hope so, because in my book, this plus the last two tracks, Goldfrapp's pounding, pretty-hateful "Strict Machine" and M83's oddly menacing "Don't Save Us From the Flames" make an unbeatable closing triad. Anyone who saw him spin this year, please tell me how his gig was. (Yeah, yeah, granted, I have no excuse for missing it when I had the chance.)
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Artist: CONTRASTATE
Title: Seven Hands Seek Nine Fingers
Format: CD
Label: Fin de Siècle Media
Rated: *****
Re-released by their hardcore fan Magnus Sundtröm on his Fin de Siècle, "Seven Hands Seek Nine Fingers" was Contrastate's 1989 lp debut, self-released on their own label Black Rose Recordings. Disbanded in 2000, Contrastate were then a duo formed by Stephen Meixner and Jonathan Grieve, and their first recordings haven't suffered from the ageing process - on the contrary, it's astonishing how some characteristics of their sound seem to anticipate the cold and obsessive blend of ambient and industrial of, say, many Cold Meat Industry projects. The three quite long tracks are built upon a minimal but carefully structured set of sounds: half of the opening "As time began", for example, is based on a cyclic loop (a bass guitar or some industrial machinery?), before evolving in more creepy ambiences. All very simple, but skillfully laid out and terribly effective. Also, the use of the spoken voice (as in "Thirst for knowledge") is in my opinion less obtrusive than in later releases of theirs. As a whole, the work has a solemn and sombre, but not entirely bleak atmosphere, and is probably one of the best examples of '80's mix of ritual industrial and dark ambiences.
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Artist: AALFANG MIT PFERDEKOPF
Title: Ich habe nur noch 12 seepferdchen in meinem tempel
Format: CD
Label: Einzeleinheit
Rated: *****
In reviewing Aalfang's previous cdr release, "Mezethakla Mukabalatt", I pointed out how the project was really intriguing but still a bit unrefined in its blend of acid folk guitars, drones and concrete music. Well, while fully maintaining their formula, Mirko Uhlig and friends (five additional musicians, this time - no info on who plays what) have improved a lot in this new work. Current 93's "Earth covers earth" could be a suitable reference for the folkish movements of suites like "Jaja ungarinyin und nun zur leiche am ufer" and "Träumereien in den innereien eines toten sperlings", but most of all Nurse With Wound's surrealistic tecniques seem to be a huge influence for Aalfag. This time, pitch-bent and backward voices, manipulated instruments and ambient drones (and a few annoying stabs of noise) are mixed with great skill and sense of composition - pure organized madness, with the typical flavour of bad trip psychedelia which is so typical of good old Kraut music. I'm now pretty curious of hearing the band's collaborative 3" with Emerge (just released by Verato) and the upcoming cdr on Mystery Sea.
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Artist: REMAIN SILENT (@)
Title: Dislocation
Format: CD
Label: Axesscode (@)
Rated: *****
Okay, get-hard-be-strong Electro artists, keep your fingers away from your equipment and give your attention to this new and second release by this French project, because THIS stuff will teach you a lesson. This 76 minutes long conceptual release can be easily seen as a textbook about how to produce complex and innovative soundtrack music stylistically designed for a never released Science Fiction movie. This is the impression I had by listening through this album. Also a feast for the eyes is the excellent artwork which shows diverse industrial landscapes and machine impressions. Musically this album offers a wide range of diverse styles almost based on Dark Electro structures while integrating elements taken out of Industrial, Electronica, Ambient up to Powernoise. It is an instrumental album filled with uncountable FX samples, atmospheric layers and a depressive mood. The programming abilities are a next outstanding point, I have found here some references to FLA, SKINNY PUPPY or NUMB and it is not too far away from this handicap. Think about FLA’s track "Infra Red Combat" on the first half of this track and you maybe get an idea how this release will be. 12 tracks are here, and all have the name "Dislocation", no any other name. My favorites can be found with the tracks # 2, # 4 for the Dark Electro style with a light Powernoise touch, while # 7 and # 9 feature some guitars and break beats as well in this two overall very danceable efforts. This release is created as a whole floating unit, that means, the are no empty spaces in between the tracks. Please make sure to check this band out, it is a kind of demonstration and you won’t regret it. Get this sci-fi odyssey!!!
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Artist: MERZBOW
Title: Dust of Dreams
Format: CD
Label: Thisco
Rated: *****
My latest encounter with Merzbow was the quite surprising and -ahem- rocking "Sha-Mo 3000" on the Brazilian label Essence Music. "Dust of Dreams" is a more predictable laptop noise+beats release, but a pretty good listen nonetheless. Packed in the usual eye-catching dadaist collage by Akita himself, the cd starts with the digital cracklings of "1339", soon turning into a typical synth throb mangled by bursts of distortion. The lengthy (37+ minutes) title track is more harsh frequencies with a rhythmic background (which must be a looped ethnic percussion) - a basic structure, but giving a nice psychedelic effect. The samples eventually fades out giving way to a piercing high-end drill, then more loops and a ping-pong distortion overlap, with an intense crescendo. The second half of the track is a more frantic Merzbeat thing, with a theory of fast paced loops. And a fat beat (a "techno" one so to speak) is also present in "0716", which is the shortest and weakest track of the three. Being no Merzbow aficionado, I'm not able to compare this to the rest of his discography, though I suspect this is not one of his quintessential works. But the title track alone, in its pompous, almost baroque approach to harsh noise, makes this surely worth a ride.
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