Music Reviews



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Artist: Large Number
Title: Spray On Sound
Format: CD
Label: The White Label
Rated: *****
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I popped this disc in the player. The mélange of strange items (which could pass for a mess on my bedroom floor) gracing the cover superimposed over an old analog synthesizer, beneath a green eye, topped by a brow-like feather, and capped with a pink box really grabbed my attention. Initially, I thought I’d be bombarded with straight-up, noisy experimentation a la Voice Crack or some of Nurse With Wound’s more cacophonic offerings. Instead, I discovered a wide array of styles, sounds, and all around funky weirdness from former Add N to (X) founder/member, Ann Shenton and her new comrades. This rowdy bunch includes a blind banjo player, a guitarist, a female harmonica virtuoso, former Add N to (X) drummer Rob Allum, and a veritable plethora of synthesizers and other electronic toys that have been assembled by Shenton for the purpose of producing this strangely seductive racket. To put it bluntly, this is just plain cool! Each of the fourteen tracks is its own unique entity. "The Creaky O.K." kicks things off on an uncomplicated, funky note. "Pink Jazz" defines itself with its quirky vocals about (you guessed it) Pink Jazz and its trippy, oscillator-infused meanderings are a perfect backdrop for the strangely robotic discourse. "Hunchback in the Dark" is a purely instrumental stint, as low horns frolic gently in a field of gently chirping, retro-synth sounds. "Crazy" bops absurdly along in utter merriment, the male and female vocalists trading silly lyrical lines over softly vocoded backing vocals and a wonderfully relaxing guitar theme, before a beat interrupts the flow. "Chronosynclasticinfundibulation" sounds vaguely like a trip to the video arcade circa late 70’s/early 80’. Xevious, Break-out, and a couple of others I can’t readily identify are in the mix, along with some well-placed theremin shrieks, and a spate of insistent drumbeats, some of them bona-fide wooden-stick-on-stretched-skin, and some synthetic. "Spring on Electris" begins with a song from a tiny calliope and degenerates into erratic burps and bubbles of sound backed by a light soup of snares and cymbals. "The Transgenic Banjo Player" busts some seriously freaky moves, with its sneaky bass line and jazz-induced feel underlying a lament about "my body falling into the black hole of chaos." The song proceeds to do just that, as the banjo joins in for a brief spaced-out country jam, ultimately withering away into quietude. "Lexical Synesthesia" keeps the banjo in the mix, along with the guitar and acoustic drums. The requisite synth oddities take backstage to this broth of natural instrument sounds and a few sketchy lines of vocals that give this track the feeling of a more traditional song structure. "Autumn on Electris" marks a return to this fantastic locale – if this is what is sounds like on Electris, I’m booking a ticket today! "Today, This Flea" is a modest little 40 second bit, perhaps a suitably short and tidy ode to one of this small critters? "Love in the Asylum" is a gorgeous groove, powered by an infectious harpsichord hook, replete with swooping synths and an occasional wail from the theremin. "Twenty Two Seconds" reminds me of that shuddering-vibe sound effect used so often in murder mystery movies. The mystery here is embodied in the nearly indecipherable words, spoken lightly throughout this short track until it fades away. "Emotional Life of Animals" evokes images of an alien landing on some farm. One can hear dogs barking, cattle lowing, sheep bleating, and plenty of otherworldly noises in the background. A live recording of "The Earth Has Shrunk in the Wash" closes out this totally odd but addictive musical escapade. My only complaint is the short playing time, as the disc clocks in at a mere 38:16. Hopefully next time, they’ll spray on some more sound!
Artist: PIA fRAUS
Title: Dit Is Jouw Ritme
Format: 12"
Label: Infant Terrible Productions (@)
Rated: *****
PIA fRAUS is a band coming from Belgium. DIT IS JOUW RITME is their first release for Enfant Terrible Productions, new Dutch label which with this release show really well its peculiarity into producing particular music. If you wonder if with "particular music" I mean something positive, well, with this I mean something REALLY positive. This is the first time I listened to PIA fRAUS' music but I got excited in no time because of its mixture of industrial, melody and electronic. As references the press sheet reports Legendary Pink Dots, Fad Gadget, Skinny Puppy, etc. Well, listening to the five original tracks (the sixth one is an electro experimental RA-X remix of "Keep running, keep looking") you can hear lots of influences but it is difficult to name a particular one. Maybe SKinny Puppy and Fad Gadget are the more evident but only because one tracks like "Coleur locale" or the following "Parasietofmol" mix distorted vocals and guitars just to turn the track into a relaxed one just to start the wild sounds again. If you want me to try to describe them the first term that it comes to my mind is: industrial punk. In any case they for sure are worth the purchasing but you've got to hurry because the vinyl E.P. has been printed in only 500 copies. P.s. Don't confound them with the Estonian band called Pia Fraus which sounds like My Bloody Valentine.
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Artist: Pressure Control
Title: Vamp
Format: CD
Label: Daft Records (@)
Rated: *****
As industrial music marches on into its third decade so do many of its important figures. One of those figures Gin Devo formerly of Vomito Negro continues his efforts with the release of Pressure Control’s "Vamp." "Vamp" is an anthemic, and clearly Belgian industrial music that finds its inspiration from bands like Throbbing Gristle or the Klinik. Its pulsating rhythms and digital programming keep the body interested while its harsh vocals and array of white noises entertain the mind. Written much like an electronic pop recording in the sense that these are song structures, the difference here is in the style. Gin Devo and his collaborators Manie Grace and Jericho have a sensitivity to each other that is rarely found. The nine tracks are all apocalyptic warnings of the gothic nature and are quite catchy. The best two being the tracks are "Vamp" and "C.O.D." and you’ll find yourself singing along to them. There is a lot of bad Industrial/EBM Cds out there right now and this is not one of them. Highly recommended.
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Artist: White Trash Firecrackers (@)
Title: Awkward Music for Awkward Situations
Format: CD
Label: Heads Up Productions
Rated: *****
The genre of experimental sound art has long been a tradition reaching back to the early 1980’s collective known as the Los Angeles Free Music Society (LAFMS). Artists such as Neef or Bruce Licher’s Project 197 were experimenting with this format in its infancy. Inspired by free form improvisation work akin to those artists the White Trash Firecrackers set for an interesting debut. Unlike their predecessors they use an array of electronics, tape manipulations, and sampling to create compositions that range from clever noodling to the beautiful accidents of juxtaposition.
There are no politics here, no clever melodies you can hum and certainly no pretension. If anything the White Trash Firecrackers are bit on the raw side. Their sound art is confrontational and brave. It is industrial in nature but not industrial music. The soundscapes are dissonant at times and humorous at others, and certainly not for the squeamish.



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Artist: MERZBOW
Title: Sha Mo 3000
Format: CD
Label: Essence
Rated: *****
I haven't listened to much of Merzbow's digital production, and this cd made me regret that quite a bit. Coming in a gorgeous matte-cardboard gatefold sleeve (with Akita's ongoing obsession for chickens, here in a wildly psychedelic mood), "Sha Mo 3000", played with ma-computer, guitar and EMS synthesizer, is much more diverse and tasty than I expected. The noise element is crisp, and while I'm not a fan of laptop-generated noise, there is enough care here to keep it intense throughout. But what makes "Sha Mo 3000" particularly interesting is the attention to structure and flow. Save for the initial short burst of "Suzunami", all tracks are lengthy (above the 10/15 minutes mark) and quite elaborated. Akita is always minimal in choosing his sources (often just one looped sample), but at the same time very careful with variations and details, so that the sound doesn't stagnate - which is quite fundamental in a good noise (and ambient and...) release. The title track, with its drum samples creating a heavily rhythmic backbone for the screeching feedbacks, and the fuzzy guitar of "Hen's teeth", have a flamboyant rock feel which sounds like a respectful, if perverted, tribute to '70's space music and psychedelia. "Ghost hide your eyes" and "Dreaming k-dog", on the other hand, are full of subtle and disquieting atmospheres - electroacoustic/concrete music drenched in an acid bath? Of course, there is probably enough sheer violence to make this worthwhile for a noise freak, but, unlike many ultra-noise releases, this definitely begs for repeated listens.
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