Music Reviews



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Artist: SHINJUKU THIEF
Title: Sacred Fury
Format: CD
Label: Fin de Siècle
Rated: *****
Australian musician Darrin Verhagen has been around for a while (also with his remarkable label Dorobo), but I admit this is my first exposure to Shinjuku Thief, and it's been totally different from what I expected. Coming in a really beautiful layout based on pictures of flames against a black background, "Sacred Fury" does live up to its name: this is a heavy, bombastic work. The amazingly crisp and vivid sound quality gives a surround feel to the massive orchestration of explosions, cries, electronic noises, quasi-chamber interludes and tribal percussions. Though carefully dosed, the strictly musical element is almost swept away by the all-out conflict around. With its sense of urgency and panic, this easily puts most "miltary industrial" records to shame.
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Artist: DES ESSEINTES/E.P.A.
Title: AZ50HD
Format: CD EP
Label: Fin de Siècle
Rated: *****
A maxi-ep/remix thing from Magnus Sundstrom/des Esseintes and Darrin Verhagen/E.P.A. (Shinjuku Thief, Dorobo label...). As expected, they remix each other, and the former also remixes himself ("Residue", the original version of which, "Due", appears on his new album "Les diaboliques", on Malignant). I'm not familiar with E.P.A.'s album "Black Ice", but the track Verhagen has selected, "With shredding rubber", is mean, smoking harsh noise with just a hint of demented rhythms. Things get a bit more structured in the rest of the ep, which is hard rhythmic industrial, abrasive but not totally out of control - pretty much, say, in the Ant-Zen style. I guess it's done well, though it's far less apealing to my eardrums than E.P.A.'s noisier track.
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Artist: De Trop
Title: After the Water
Format: CD
Label: Skean Dhu Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Scottish instrumental artist(s) De Trop create a compelling Ambient landscape of solemn tonal washes of gloom and nursery-like melodies. Colin Laughland and (only occasionally) Krist Moran use "only guitar, an out-of-tune piano, some cracked voices, red wine and a screwdriver," in their own words. This description fits very well, but the whole is for sure a lot greater than the sum of those parts. There are no lyrics; the melody lines and progressions, some in major and some in minor keys, are in a few of the longer songs interrupted by interesting, haunting patches of eerie noises and weird loops. In one such, during "Angels Hanging From a Rope in a Darkened Room," you can definitely imagine seeing ghosts.

While I enjoy very much the timbres and textures of these tracks, in general they don't quite go into risky enough territory. A good example of what I mean by "risky" would be any release by the German artist known as Gas -- DT's most Gas-like tracks being "Cracked Bleeding Lips and Red Shoes" and "She Hangs From a Rope That Look of Lovelovelove." (Do you catch the hanging-from-ropes theme, here? *Brrrrrr*....) My CD copy of After the Water arrived with severe water damage during shipping, with paper pulp sticking to the disc. After it was scraped off, the CD is now playable only on my Mac, and so I very probably missed many other sonic subtleties on it. For those of you even halfway serious about the Ambient genre, I say go to the Flash-heavy Skean Dhu website and buy it, just to be on the safe side.
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Artist: STEVE PETERS
Title: From shelter
Format: CD EP
Label: Cold Blue Music
Rated: *****
Though I'm awfully late at reviewing it, this excellent work was the final one in the first series of eps from Cold Blue, and possibly it was not a casual choice - if Jim Fox's "The city the wind swept away" evoked departure and long goodbyes, Peters' four-track cd is like an embrace - like finding a shelter, indeed, or being warmed by recollections. Originally written in 1997 for Lane Lucas' dance and theater work "Shelter", it features "Three short stories" where Alicia Ultan's multiple violas recordings create slowly drifting textures, while in "My burning skin to sleep" Peters' sparse piano touches and Marghreta Cordero's painfully beautiful vocals lull you to a state of suspension and wonder. In his long career, the composer has used very different idioms and means (from Gamelan to field recordings to found objects to installations), but maybe this represents his art at its most intimate.
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Artist: DRONAEMENT with ANDREA MARUTTI & AIDAN BAKER
Title: Fields 1
Format: CD
Label: Field Muzick
Rated: *****
New release from Marcus Obst on his own Field Muzick, open and closed by two tracks using basic sounds by Andrea Marutti (Amon, Never Known, AFE Records etc.) and Aidan Baker. Unlike previous recordings by Dronaement, I'm afraid I can't really get into this, though. It has a lot of analogue synth sounds and, much like his track on "Muzick out of open windows", electronic beats show up here and there as well. "The deepest point on the moon" even sounds like a kraut-rock outtake of sorts, with minimal but upbeat "motorik" rhythm. Mind it, these elements are generally used well, but I'd just stick to the droning side of the project, well represented by tracks like "It's the same as the last year - great". This is just too spacey for my taste.
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