Music Reviews



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Artist: Baptist
Title: Love Is
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk
This new single on the Basserk label is an unusual step towards the pop charts. With slow, grandiose pop-ballad sounds, bold piano and lush pads over a simple slow-and-steady electronic beat, this is a radio-friendly production whose only real twist is the pitched-down vocal. It hints at a big euphoric chorus that never arrives, and that’s probably the only ingredient it’s missing from being an unusual piece of chart fodder, given the right publicity.

With an original mix, a radio edit that’s marginally shorter but essentially the same, and an instrumental mix, a big-name remix might have also provided the tipping point into the mainstream as well.

Otherwise, a strong bit of luxury-thickness melancholic pop.
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Artist: Thembi Soddell
Title: Love Songs
Format: CD + Book
Label: Room40
In the world of ChainDLK reviewing, you can be pretty sure that when you’re sent a release called “Love Songs”, it’s not going to be a dozen soppy guitar-pop ballads about lust and affection. And sure enough, this release from Thembi Soddell could hardly be further from meeting that description. Perhaps it’s the same dry sense of humour that means that one of the promo MP3s was embedded with metadata claiming that it’s a track by Janet Jackson...

What it actually is is a series of five building electroacoustic drones and sub-bass rumbles, each starting from a near-silent environment and building, rather slowly and ominously, in amplitude before an abrupt stop that triggers the super-slow build of the following piece. Alien-sounding hums meld with occasional scratches and scrapes that wobble subtly as they approach.

“Who Is To Blame” is notable for being slightly harsher than the other pieces, with some abrupt coloured noise changes and a more unpredictable structure- although the sharpest sudden adjustment comes two minutes into sarcastically-named final track “Sweet Dreams”.

It’s a tightly focussed and boldly realised 33-minute work that can truly be described as avant garde. It’s deceptively un-simple and a little harsh at times, mildly cathartic, and generally pretty strong.
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Artist: Naum Gabo
Title: Naum Gabo EP
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Belters
The duo of Naum Gabo (Jonnie Wilkes and James Savage)’s self-titled EP is 5 tracks and 30 minutes of accessible bouncy acid instrumental techno.

The squelchy groove of “They’re Decent Sweets” makes nice use of a organ-like melody as a breakdown inbetween dancefloor-friendly, smile-inducing bass squeaks. “Qara” has a slightly more retro and synthwave tone to its synth work, somehow managing to be reminiscent of Cabaret Voltaire in tone yet good fun at the same time, again making a strong play between the rich melodic breakdown and the functional, stripped-back groove.

On the B-side, “250914” is a glitchier, breakbeat offering with a less predictable structure and more of a sense of urgency. “High On Cat’s Milk” is also a more direct and driving one-note number with a lead synth that begins to sound like an alarm. “Bim Bap” wraps things up with a bit of classic 303-style low rumbling, crisp claps and one-syllable vocal noises used like crashes and seems to just revel in the fun of making music this way.

Stuff like this is why techno is lovely.
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Artist: Sweet William (@)
Title: The Early Days 1986-1988
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic Records (@)
Rated: *****
Sweet William are back with something new that's old, or something old that's new. These are songs from the band's earliest days (1986-1988) when they were more post punk than goth, and certainly sound like it too. Unfortunately there were no good studio recordings of the band's songs from this time so they did the next best thing- went into the studio (2016-17) and recorded them. No jazzed-up, modernized production here- Sweet William wanted to make these tracks sound like their late '80s album that never was, and to their credit, they succeeded. Maybe the band is more polished now than they were back then, after all, being together for so long will do that. Still, the songs speak for themselves, short (for the most part) simple and to the point. There are shades of Joy Division, Wire, The Birthday Party, The Chameleons, Killing Joke, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and perhaps most notably- Bauhaus. Although I'm sure Oliver Heuer and the band had other influences (such as Dylan on "An Impression of Life," and the Stooges elsewhere) but vocally if you took equal parts of Nick Cave, Peter Murphy and Ian Curtis, with a slight dash of post-Japan David Sylvian it might sound something like this. The eleven songs on this album are as good as anything those aforementioned bands were producing in their early days, perhaps with the exception of their most iconic song(s), but it took a decade of hard work and evolution for Sweet William to achieve a decent measure of success. While this album is more or less a time capsule, I believe it stands on its own as a remarkable achievement. If it was released in 1988 and I had heard it at the time, I definitely would have bought it, and likely played it a lot. There is plenty of atmosphere and attitude here, and you can tell where this band would eventually be heading. Interestingly, there is only one song sung in German ("Gelb Und Grun") and that's pretty short. Fine by me though, as it adds a bit of 'tude. It was certainly a worthwhile endeavor for Sweet William to reproduce these songs without bastardizing them as some groups might have been tempted to do. Recommended!
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Artist: Amalgamated (@)
Title: TO
Format: CD + Download
Label: Aubjects (@)
Rated: *****
Somewhat recently I've reviewed solo projects by two member of Amalgamated - Phil Klampe (Homogenized Terrestrials) and Bob Newell (forM). Other members include Cory Bengsten and Mike Richards, with production assistance (mixing/mastering) by D. Petri of the Aubjects label. This Illinois-based collaborative makes some astonishing instrumental electronic music that crosses the genres of elctronica, industrial, psychedelic, ambient, dark ambient, noise, IDM, experimental, and what-have-you since about 2004. On their own, these guys are quite formidable. Together, just amazing and enigmatic. You really never know what you're going to get with an Amalgamated recording, and to be honest, this one almost slipped through the cracks, being accidentally tossed on my "already reviewed" pile. At first I wasn't even sure what it was. It comes with a piece of patterned vellum, a 36 page mini-booklet of mostly abstract black & white images and the CD has a fuchsia stenciled spray paint design on it. The printing on the vellum is hard to see, but it did have the basics on it to tell me that it was Amalgamated. (The physical version of this is limited to only 36 copies.)

'TO' consists of only five tracks - Euhedral (7:38); Chronometeorite (22:44); Phlebneutrics pt. 1 (4:48); Phlebneutrics pt. 2 (6:37); Stoichiometry (12:55) recorded in 2014-2015. Each is quite different from the other. "Euhedral" begins with a bassy, bouncy, springy synth amidst an atmosphere of noise pads, wild echoed oscillators and other spacey effects. Eventually it deconstructs into some type of randomized computer code, or so it would seem. There's an awful lot going on here and it's hard to keep your head above water through it all. "Chronometeorite" has a touch of the old Eno~Moebius~Roedelius to it with a sustained string synth, rhythmic bass synth sequence (morphing into a fuller rhythm) and then a carnival-like synth as it chugs its way into the nether-regions. When the rhythmic impetus disappears, you'll find yourself adrift in quantum spacetime, where all sorts of particle variables come into play. These are difficult to describe without going into the minutia of the sonics, best experienced on your own. Suffice to say the listener will be drifting through sound elements familiar and unfamiliar, like a psychedelic experience. As you pass through that, you step through the radiance to "the other side," back to a physical industrialized soundscape that's almost comical in its mechanization. "Phlebneutrics pt. 1" is the most strictly ambient piece so far, containing events but with the major element of drone. "Phlebneutrics pt. 2" is a richer, more developed sort of ambient with far more layers and elements to it than part 1, and a different feel. Towards the end there is even a chaotic sort of breakbeat rhythm. "Stoichiometry" begins with a rhythm reminiscent of Cluster & Eno and high open-filter synth sequenced along with it giving it a very musical feel. Various modulations along the way change and transform the piece until it consolidates into a singular drone, then mutates into a rainy city evening. There is a tinnitular background ambience that fills the space between the raindrops. There you have it.

"TO" is probably best listened to without focus as it's best appreciated without dissecting the sonics and just letting the feeling wash over you. For those who don't care much about physical product (if there are even any left) you can buy the digital album from the Aubjects Bandcamp site for only 4 bucks which is pretty cheap for this much creativity.
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