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Artist: Joshua Gabriel
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: 14B records
Rated: *****

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I don't know what might have anybody made thing that Joshua Gabriel's music had anything to do with the music we deal with here at Chain D.L.K., but we will make an exception because, even if not musically, he does impersonificate the spirit behind Chain D.L.K. (plus he's from my 'hood!). Brooklyn Williamsburg-based jewish (?) anarchic (!) poet/performer/artist/DJ/painter (he also hand-scribbled every one of these 200-only limited edition CDs that are available), Joshua Gabriel is following in the footsteps of those who have made a record with just a guitar and some good lyrics, those who don't care for hi fidelity of recordings but who concentrate on content first and foremost. He rhymes away like one of them hip hop guys but speaks words of revolution. His charisma and his music are unique and dirty as those of Beck, Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, DJ Shadow, Lou Reed. Altough he is originally from Pennsylvania, he planted his roots in NYC's anti-folk movement and went on to be called "NY's most aspiring weirdoo" by the Village Voice. He's a character, that's for sure. Original, opposing, criticizing and all of that. Voices of rallies, live on the spot rapping/beatboxing improvisation, rude but artsy guitar picking and struming, poems of every day life are just a little bit of what this disc has ready for you. Joshua Gabriel is an anti-folk urban profet of lo-fi music and socially-awakening propaganda.
Artist: Jesu
Title: Heartache
Format: CD EP
Label: Dry Run Records
Rated: *****
Jesu is Justin Broadrick’s new project after the dissolution of his seminal band Godflesh. Those who know Godflesh’s last album, Hymns, might recognize the name Jesu as the title of the last track on that record. Which seems fitting, both symbolically and sonically: "Jesu," the song, a doorway, so to speak, leading from one project to another. Jesu, the project, is not remarkably different than Godflesh, though. If Jesu is a phoenix rising from Godflesh’s ashes (to mix my metaphors a bit), its colourings may be different but it’s still the same bird.

Heartache is nominally an ep, containing two tracks with all instrumentation provided by Broadrick, but those two tracks clock in at 20 minutes so this might as well be a full-length album. There is a certain ebb and flow to those two tracks – seemingly disparate sections merged together, those mergings gradually making sense as the songs progress – that gives a sense of more than two tracks and keeps you engrossed. Some adjectives to describe the music? Monolithic, punishing, atmospheric, pretty, trance-like... which may seem antithetical, but Broadrick masterfully combines these elements to create engrossing music. Mechanical drum-machine rhythms and heavy, churning guitar/bass riffs – sometimes bludgeoning, sometimes groovy – overlaid with atmospheric, bell-toned guitar melodies and keyboard lines surging out of those riffs, and Broadrick’s habitual vocals-as-another-instrument lyrics floating along the surface.

Which probably sounds just like more Godflesh. And you wouldn’t be mistaken. There isn’t a lot of difference, really. There is more reliance on keyboards with Jesu (which did take some getting used to, as they initially seemed a bit obtrusive) and, if anything, the tracks are even more drawn out, slow-evolving, and repetitive than Godflesh. This does heighten the more hypnotic or trance-like quality of Jesu but perhaps makes it more demanding for the listener, requiring more patience or careful listening. A better sonic blueprint for Jesu isn’t the song from Hymns, but the last track on Godflesh’s Selfless, "Go Spread Your Wings" with all its epic grandeur, hypnotic ambience, and icy bleakness. If you like that song, you’ll like Jesu.

Artist: Jesu
Title: s/t
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Hydrahead Records
Rated: *****
This is going to be a mixed review. Jesu’s self-titled, debut full-length release is a good album, but quite different than their first recorded output, Heartache. And it’s difficult not to compare s/t disfavourably to Heartache. To begin with, the tracks on s/t are considerably shorter. The album itself is 74 minutes, but the individual tracks average around 7 or 8 minutes. Which is fairly long, yes, but on Heartache the two tracks are both around 20 minutes each, which give them a much more epic feel and a sense of grandeur that s/t lacks. The length of the Heartache tracks demands a more experimental structuring; as such, the s/t tracks feel markedly conventional, in comparison, displaying less structural and harmonic variation. In fact, harmonically speaking, s/t verges on monotonous. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it contributes to an overall coherence to the album – endowing it with continuous and enveloping sense of atmosphere – but a little more melodic variation might be welcome. Likewise a bit more rhythmic variation: while Heartache pounded and grooved, s/t plods with 4/4 rhythms and hardly any syncopation. Which, again, does contribute to the overall sense of envelopment, but, again, with the length of the album a little more variation might make the disc a little easier to listen to in its entirety.

Much of this may come down to the performers. While Justin Broadrick performed everything on Heartache, Jesu now is much more of a band. Broadrick (keyboards, guitars, vocals) is joined by Diarmuid Dalton on bass and Ted Parsons (who played on Godflesh’s Hymns and previously in Prong and Swans) on drums. There is no question that Parsons is a very technically proficient drummer, but he is perhaps not the most interesting player. His steady, straight-forward beats (with a hint of Prong-like groove) worked nicely on Hymns, but on this album with the more straight-forward guitar riffs, there is a lot more room for percussive movement and experimentation that again would help in making the album more engaging.

Now it’s not really fair to judge an album entirely in comparison to its predecessor, nor should one expect an artist/band not to change, though I’m sure others also judged the Heartache ep as an indicator of things to come. Maybe they were similarly disappointed; maybe they weren’t. And I don’t want to give the impression that I dislike this album. Despite the above criticisms, I do think this is a powerful album full of atmospherically enveloping songs nicely juxtaposing guitar heaviness with pretty, pop-like keyboard and vocal melodies and floating ambience. The opening track "Your Path to Divinity" stands out as one of the stronger tracks with its slow, melancholy progression. The second to last track, "Man/Woman", is my favourite, as it provides a welcome change in texture and tone, picking up the aggression and intensity, revisiting a more Godflesh-like sound with its pummeling riffs and heavier vocals, while still retaining the Jesu sensibility of ambience and immersion.
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Artist: Novachild
Title: Traveller
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
"Traveller" is the second full length release from the Tulsa, OK. project Novachild. Revolving pads, textures, smooth transitions, the occasional guitar and well constructed beats are at the core of this disc. However, what separates this disc from the legions of other ambient releases birthed into the world is it's excellent tone. "Traveller" is not without purpose and as it's title suggests, the music is on it's way somewhere and in no rush to get there. Whether on that long road trip to nowhere or just watching the sun go on about it's business... "Traveller" is an excellent accompaniment to the passage of time. While the tempo may vary from a brisk clip to a slower pace, make no mistake: this disc was made for chilling. My only complaint about the disc sits entirely with one track and it's a shame because most of the track is well executed. The excellently titled "Yesterday is a Lonely Place" is, for the most part, a good song but it's bogged down part way through with the annoying auto-tuner/vocoder effect hammered into history by the Cher track "Believe". Not that it's anywhere near as obnoxious but nevertheless, the effect is noticeable enough to get in the way. That aside, "Traveller" is an excellent release for any fan of laid back grooves, ambient textures and creative song writing. Fans of Tangerine Dream, Drome and µ-Ziq will find a lot to appreciate with this release. Stand out tracks: "Late Sun Smooth Asphalt", "Memories and Dreams" and "Two Days Ago the Sky was Blue". The CD "Traveller" is available for purchase through Novachild's website.
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Artist: Rob Levit (@)
Title: Anatomy of Ecstasy
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Symbol System Music
Rated: *****

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Rob Levit is and has been one of the pioneering musicians in free-jazz, but he's also one of those rare cats that are open and welcoming towards experimentation. He is an internationally acclaimed and multiple awards recipient guitar player, composer, painter, educator and poet whose works, lessons, gigs and residencies have brought him to Boston, Baltimore, Annapolis (Maryland) and of course the capital of it all: New York City. Levit is not new to experimentation. He is currently signed to Silver Apples' Simeon's label Whirlybird records. He has been making music forever and has been taking guitar playing to a whole new level. He might not be as ground-breaking as the awesome Stanley Jordan, he might not be as extreme as the terrific David Torn, he might not be as fragmented as the great Allan Holdsworth, but I'll tell you what... he's completely different, he too is on another planet, just a different planet. Old preconceptions are canned when somebody starts playing like this and starts gently wrestling with uncommon sonics. His new instrument of love seems to be the computer now. So that is where you draw the line. If you are reading this review because you've been studing off the Real Book for decades and your idea of jazz doesn't go beyond the majestic Miles Davis (which is totally cool with me, don't get me wrong) and you can't possibly comprehend why John Zorn has got to make all that rabbish on stage, then you might wanna move on to Teraesa Vinson's new album (another beautiful jazz album, if I may say so). But if you are indeed looking for the next step in improvisational mayhem and you don't mind if this comes wrapped in a thick layer of electronic music then go on. Go on if you like extreme things such as Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Peter Frohmader, Hector Zazou, Apell, Rich West, Hans Teuber, Paul Rucker, Frank Gingeleit, Jeff Kaiser, Robert Fripp, Marc Ribot, Guillaume Cazenave and the whole Musea recordings catalogue, Form of Things Unknown and so on... but hell, even Displacer, Boards of canada, Photophb, Terminal Sound System etc. This eclectic and multifaceted artist has found inspiration through the broadening of his musical horizons. Those who knew him for his jazz music might very well be shocked if they were to listen to these "electronic soundscapes". You get it all here: ambient soundscapes, idm beats, d'n'b breakbeats, glitch-electronica, classical music, free-jazz, progressive, avantgard, experimental, trance and dark. As you might comprehend it is really hard to describe 22 songs and 2 CDs for a total of almost 2 and a half hours, especially when these songs are so drastically various and dramatically evolving. If I had to pick out what I don't like about this record, it would be the length. I understand that an artist needs space (by the way, the art work is his paintings too), but I think the same could have been said in one CD, with a conciseness which would have made it even more affordable (not financially speaking, that is). Eclecticism is key word to understanding here. You can't possibly stop at the third tune, you've got to go through all the cuts to begin understanding where he's coming from. It's a great proof of devotion towards barrier-breaking, genre-bending and cross-over (I haven't used that word since Faith No More's albums in the nineties I think ;-)) music. I wouldn't mind at all working with this guy. It's fresh and out there. It's the all new Rob Levit. Enjoy.
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