Music Reviews



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Artist: PASTACAS (@)
Title: Tsaca Tsap
Format: CD
Label: Kohvi Records (@)
Rated: *****
Composed between 2002 and 2004 in Kirjakkala (Finland West coast) where mornings last only 33'33", TSACA TSAP is the third album that Ramo Teder composed as Pastacas. Respect the old releases this is more musical and it sees a more intense use of acustic instruments respect the sampled sounds. The voice is the thing that has been treated more heavily and as a final result you've got sixteen tracks that oscillate from jazz, pop, ambient, techno, improvisation and musical virtuosity where the song, all of a sudden, could stop including a part of treated sounds (tape slowdown effect, flanger, etc) just to start again as a light pop song. Try to imagine a strange version of King Of Convenience that has been hijacked by a eccentric dj. The final result is really particular and personal and by listening to these particular songs is like walking into Ramo's living room without your shoes on and sitting down on the floor just to see his creatures taking form. Also the language used (a mix of Estonian, Finnish and one totally invented) help the creation of the strange thing called TSACA TSAP. Please be quiet and take your place...
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Artist: Many Axes (@)
Title: 2 Many Axes
Format: CD
Label: pfMentum (@)
Distributor: pfMentum
Rated: *****
Drumming and instrument circles vary widely across the U.S. Anytime when a group of world musicians pick up their instruments, I grab a drum and am one of the first to join in. This type of jam session is always magickal and fun. The great thing is, that every group’s sounds are as different and unique as the individuals participating. So I am always happy to hear improvisational musicians on world instrumentation playing the entire night away! When I received 2 Many Axes, the second release from avant-garde instrumentalists Many Axis, it immediately went into my player. And I was not disappointed. There is a difference between musicians who play improv and those who record improv. Often those who record are so full of themselves that the recording is nothing more than an exercise in ego maniacal mayhem. But happily, this is not the case with Many Axis. The group plays so comfortably and well within its boundaries that you can’t help but have fun listening to them because it is obvious that they are having fun. Susan Rawcliffe not only plays wind instruments she also makes them. Mother Gaia giving birth to song! Accompanying her on wind instruments is Scott Wilkinson who also plays deftly and energetically. Rounding up the group is Brad Dutz delicate and diligent on percussion. The trio rallies themselves and slowly meld into one. A complex organic structure planting the seed, taking root and reaching toward the sky. I was immediately moved by the haunting opening track "March of Whales" which reminded me more of coyotes or wolfs. Many Axes fashion an acoustic ambient space where the winds gently glide among the cliffs blowing through the rocks and outcroppings giving birth to a chorus against which the coyotes sing. It’s actually track 2, Circuspace, that takes me into the realm of whales. Organic winds blowing out cries of solemn song organizing itself into a calliope of pulsing beats then dementia. A wonderful fluidity which openly states, "our instruments hold us to no boundaries".From the eastern underpinnings of Drama Dairy and Entropy to the singing bowls on Dali Comma, Many Axes showcase their lateral group approach to the myriad of world instruments on hand. If I have one complaint about this CD at all is has to be that too much time dedicated to the rallying of organized musical structure as the band attempts to find their own. While fun in activity, it really is not a whole lot of fun to listen too and these little exercises, though essential to this type of music, should have been edited from the final cut. But by no means does this detract from the raw edge and acoustic grace that Rawcliffe, Dutz and Wilkinson manage to conjure.2 Many Axis is mastered to fine definition. The most lithe breath is captured. As a matter of fact, breath is used as a rhythm instrument as well. The trio indeed uses the most of what they have on hand without muddying the mix. Simple is the key to their success. So build a nice bonfire, take your CD player with you and let Many Axes bring the visions in the leaping flames to life!
Artist: Steven K. Smith (@)
Title: Totality 6.10.94
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu (@)
Rated: *****
Totality 6.10.94 is the third ambient/experimental solo effort by Steven K. Smith. Smith has collaborated on several projects including Daye of Skye and that in being the other half of the ambient band Dolmen. Totality 6.10.94 attempts to create a sonic realization of the 1994 solar eclipse through use of sonorous environments in a three movement phase.
The opening track appropriately titled "The Approaching Darkness at Noon" begins with a moody synthesizer wall drone that had me prepared to partake in the adventure. I waited contently for the piece to evolve so that I could begin my journey but to my dismay, it did not. It just got on my nerves. This set the tone for the entire CD. The drone just did not let up or progress. It was... well... a wall (excuse the pun) that I thought would never end. I was gritting my teeth before the second movement dominated my headphones. Buried deep within the title track I felt saved by the introduction of a very nice piece of tribal rhythms which cued moody and shadowy apparitions. They crept through the darkness of the objectionable drone and my hopes for Totality shot up. But this was a misinterpretation on my part because as soon as the rhythms conjured up their dark imagery, they dissipated just as swiftly and continued with more of the monotonous stagnate drones. And so was the CD.
If Smith had at least made any attempt at some unique sound design or, at the very least, allowed the movements to progress with organic behavior I believe that this endeavor was indeed an effort. It really feels like Smith holds back natural progressions. The sounds and walls are so muddy that I felt dirty after listening. And like sonic mud, Smith languishes for any display or creativity. I honestly feel that little or no effort was involved in the making of Totality and that it may have been an "off the cuff" project. This is a shame in that within the mere seconds of distant vocal experiments and brooding rhythm an embryo is awaiting to take shape.
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Artist: DISKREPANT
Title: 33 - 12
Format: CD
Label: Fin de Siècle
Rated: *****
I honestly wasn't impressed by Diskrepant's recent split with des Esseintes, harsh old school industrial noise which I found a tad too primitive. On the contrary, this new full-length is an entirely different story, and a very positive surprise. Per Åhlund seems to be deeply inspired by Eastern spirituality (the inner cover states that "religion is a thing of the past - spirituality is not"), and this is evident at least in the musical aspect of the work: "Preparing for the fourth stage" heavily relies on treated and untreated recordings of ritual instruments (gongs, bells, rattles, etc.), vocal mantras etc., which are carefully mixed with minimal electronic drones. The second and shorter track, "Entering the Fourth Stage", is even more subdued and static, with barely recognizable (often reversed) samples and low-end currents. The whole work is surely dark and at times brooding, but not in a tipically "dark ambient" vein - rather conveying the feel of both meditative detachment and mind-altering vertigo that is indeed typical of Buddhist chants. A very soulful and respectful work, from this point of view. Along with Halo Manash's "Syoma", this is my favourite ritual-ambient work of 2004.
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Artist: NADJA
Title: Corrasion
Format: CD
Label: Foreshadow Productions
Rated: *****
I suppose most readers know Canadian musician Aidan Baker for his solo activity as a prolific drone/ambient composer (with several releases on Public Eyesore, Drone, etc.), but Nadja is a self-defined "drone metal" one-man band where Aidan plays guitar, bass, drum machine, violin and heavily filtered vocals. All tracks are lengthy, from 8 to 21 minute, and indulge in very repetitive riffs, merging the characteristics of doom, psychedelic rock and droning minimalism - a crossover which has given some brilliant results (see Earth and Sunn 00))) and is maybe not that uncommon these days. While the tortured sludge riffs of "Amniotic" sound like a cybernetic update of Eyehategod, Nadja's quite original sound generally has an emotional vein, both epic and melancholic, due to which Godflesh, Loop and, now and then, Isis - i. e. a lighter, more "rock" influence - come to mind. I suppose that for most people, as with all kinds of truly heavy and monotonous sounds, Nadja will be quite "love it or leave it" - I definitely belong to the former, especially thanks to the almost romantic feel of these songs (they're love songs, after all).
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