Music Reviews



May 09 2017
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Artist: v1984
Title: Pansori
Format: 12"
Label: Knives
“Pansori” is a 5-track (well, 4-track-and-1-interlude), 14 minute EP that wants to be simultaneously a cinematic sci-fi score and glitchy, alt-clubby electronica. Stepping light yet complex dubsteppy beats underpin coldwave-style synth chords and slow looping melodic bleeps.

The production is polished and bright, if a little un-dynamic in parts, for example in “Too Much”. The energetic use of found sound and short dramatic string samples in “Aria Of Dawn” works well, although the melody that arrives is a little aimless.

The awfully-titled first track “SPfiNAL TAP re-JUVENescence” is a highlight, an impressive prelude that the remaining tracks don’t quite live up to, bookended with the final track “beauty __ IT5INYR-H3D” (yes it’s really called that) which plays beautiful sweet piano melodies against loud and abrupt vocal and explosive sample speed shifts.

Overall v1984’s second EP is very shiny, but there’s a slight feeling of unfinished hit-and-miss experimentation about it.
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Artist: The Star Pillow
Title: Invisible Summer
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Midira Records
“Invisible Summer” comprises four remarkably simple pieces of ambient drone, blended from electronics and guitar sounds that have been so processed that their DNA is almost wholly electronic too. Recorded live in sun-washed Northern Italy during the Summer of 2016, it’s extremely beautiful in its languid simplicity. Gentle melodic note patterns ebb slightly into our consciousness, and it delicately balances mellow with melancholy.

Second track “While You’re Sleeping In July” in particular has, as the title suggests, a wave-like soporific quality to it that makes it absolutely ideal for meditative thought, or just happily nodding off. Third track “Under The Ice Of August” is again aptly named, with a cooler, slightly windier and more fragile glass tone, before “The End Is The Beginning” yet again takes a literal title as it at first returns to the original form of the opening track, before developing into a more guitar-heavy grand shoegaze finale that is very slightly at odds with the structure of the rest of the album.

Stunningly simple but very effective, “Invisible Summer” won’t win any awards for innovation but this is a luxurious sound bath that I’d very highly recommend.
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Artist: Between Interval (@)
Title: Legacy
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Sweden's Between Interval, the project name of electronic music composer Stefan Strand has been working in electronic music since 1996 and has five albums going back to 2004, four of the on the Spotted Peccary label. His last release was all the way back in 2009 ('The Edge of a Fairy Tale'), so Between Interval fans have had a long wait for 'Legacy.' I haven'[t heard any of Between Interval's prior efforts, but the promo sheet says that he's influenced by Jean Michel Jarre, Robert Rich, Aphex Twin and Pink Floyd, so there is a certain expectation, for me at least. While the album's concept is not nearly as exacting as S. K. Johansen's 'Secret Space Program,' it certainly is a spacier affair. This artist seems to prefer a more impressionistic approach, which is fine in music like this. Once you get too definite, there are certain expectations that are disappointing when not met, and tend to dichotomize the artist's concept from the listener's experience. None of that here. This is space music, pure and simple. Damn fine space music too. Between Interval never gets too specific with melody, and lets the sublimity of the atmosphere carry you away. Right from the opening track ("Tunnel") the music seems other-worldly. There is motion well-integrated with the cosmic ambience, with a purposeful sequenced percussion track that gently propels the listener onward. The journey continues in the nearly hypnotic "On Track" with just enough simple thematic content that doesn't overwhelm. (This makes for wonderful driving music, by the way.) Maybe your energy is waning. Maybe you need an "Accelerant" to give you a boost. It takes a little time to come on, but when it does, it recalls the impetus of Tangerine Dream and Michael Hoenig sequencers. Plenty of nature field recordings herald in "The Hour Appointed," but also with bellish tones and an ominous dark and low ambient pad that adds contrast to what otherwise might have been a sunny day. The technoir of "Septimal Laws" makes for pure space ambient delight, and the cosmic awesomeness of "Fields of Neptune" holds its own with the best of 70's electronic space music. Old school at its finest. By the time you get to "The Outer Shell," you're in floating deep space and time seems to have little meaning anymore. However, every flight must eventually return to terra and the trancey return with "Gravity Core" makes for a smooth landing. "Inner Guidance" is perhaps the most enigmatic track on 'Legacy,' with electronically manipulated voices, methodically placed bass accents, and a Blade Runneresque ambience. While "Closing In" isn't much more than a minute of noise sweeps, it's an effective way to end the trip. What I really like about Between Interval's compositions is that they never go overboard with sounds (nearly minimalistic at times) and allow the music a lot of breathing space, yet still sound huge. In electro-ambient space music, that's a big plus. Also available in limited edition vinyl.
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Artist: Sverre Knut Johansen
Title: Secret Space Program
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
No novice to the game, Norwegian electronic music composer Sverre Knut Johansen has releases going back to 1994, and 'Secret Space Program' is his second on the Spotted Peccary label. According to the promo, the album "focuses a distant lens on some of life’s strangest and possibly most impactful questions. Who are we? Where did we come from? Are we alone?"..."The album’s concept shimmers with the enthralling aura of a sci-fi story, flirting with conspiratorial questions reminiscent of The X-Files, as the 'Secret Space Program' of Johansen’s musical tale investigates our involvement with non-terrestrial intelligence." Well, that's the concept as they are promoting it. "There are many who argue that there are secret organizations cooperating with extraterrestrials on several levels. So-called black ops programs.” Johansen explains. “What if these stories were true? Would we find that there is a secret base located on the moon, or that there are organizations on Earth that have daily contact and interaction with extraterrestrials?” An intriguing concept, but in light of the artist's statement, I would have expected something much darker.

Truth be told, the beginnings of this work sounds like wistful New Age, albeit with some cinematic potency. Melodic ambient (once again "Melambient" applies) with natural sounds of gulls and surf, string swells and rapid synth arpeggios whizzing by, and some synth melodies, but it hardly exemplifies the first track's title, "MILAB (Military Abduction)." The second track also seems to be mistitled - "Black Ops (Military Secret Space Programs)," with a romantic melody and nothing sinister going on at all. In fact, things don't get dark until the seventh track, "Blue Avians," a percussionless number that's heavy on deep synth pads. Although there are some nice cinematic ambiences I
didn't get much excited about the music until track 8 - "Genetic Programs." Here there is classic Tangerine Dream style synth sequencing and a lot less of the romantic melodicism that Johansen is noted for. Everything on this track works, firing on all cylinders with a crackling anxiety. What a drag it is though to come down on the next number, "Precognitive Abilities," with melodic romantic synth lead, piano, and an incongruously hyperactive percussion track. It is redeemed by "Raising Our Vibrational and Consciousness Level" that gives the inpression of floating through the aether. "Orb Beings" is symptomatic of everything that is good, and not so good about this album. There is melancholic romantic melody juxtaposed by a sense of urgency, cosmic synths and space guitar sounds, dramatic percussion, a large symphonic presence, and cosmic aura. This dances on the edge of New Age perilously close to the precipice without absolutely falling off. As for the 'Secret Space Program' concept, I don't believe the music lives up to it, although on its own (perhaps with a less nefarious precept) it's a nice symphonic ambient outing.
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Artist: PRTCL (@)
Title: Scarpyard/Traction ft.Survey
Format: 12"
Label: Notion Audio (@)
Rated: *****
While listening to the first of two amazing rollers included in this release by Notion Audio, you could easily imagine Berlin-based British drum'n'bass producer and dj Joe London, better known as PRTCL (pronounce it as 'protocol'), playing by some scrap metallic objects in an old salvage yard, where kids go to get high, and turn this seemingly useless stuff into a dangerous sonic weapon. Banging metallic hits got wrapped by warm distorted low frequencies and other foggy pulsations, which could you let imagine coming from the lab of a sort of powerful necromancer for wrecked machinery, are going to delight fans of nervously obscure breaks on "Scrapyard". Other two skilled d'n'b producers from Berlin scene, Hardy Schulz and Stephan Albrecht aka Survey, joined Joe's game in the following tune "Traction", a catchy roller propelled by breathtaking accelerations, well-organized fragmented beats, piercing drops of distorted synth-brass and haunting percussive swirls. Neurotech lovers deserve to get sometimes exposed to PRTCL's highly energetic rays and electro-mechanical compression.
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