Music Reviews



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Artist: Fektion Fekler (@)
Title: Into the Sun
Format: CD
Label: Static Sky Records (@)
Rated: *****
The two protagonists of industrial synth/darkwave duo Fektion Fekler have almost, but not quite, grasped their musical genie coming out of its bottle. The bad news first: although they have been recording since 1989, artistically an advantage from any perspective, the musicianship on their new 14-track release yet has some room for improvement. In spite of really cool effects on the vocals, too many of the tracks suffer from off-key singing. I emphasize this not to be unfair, but because so much else about this disc is already incredibly good, that it could have been great. Nevertheless, FF presses bravely on: woven into the last two-fifths of Into the Sun is an unexpected (for this first-time listener) and refreshing batch of lovely, acoustic guitar-driven songs reminiscent of Meddle-era Pink Floyd. "Liberate Tutmet," the last song (if you don't count the "hidden" track), resolves the CD nicely with its eerie, This Mortal Coil-like splendor. Finally, the vocal performances on these just manage to redeem the other trouble spots on the disc.

Assuming that vocalist John Bustamante is also the mysterious "Womb Dabbler" listed among the guest credits (as "vocals and lyrics by..."), he and brother programmer/guitarist/bassist Robert offer not only decent industrial fare but heartfelt odes as well. This serious commitment to doing something sincere and different with their genre will for sure make FF stand out as a whole. They definitely have the tools; all they need is a little troubleshooting.
Artist: Habeeb (@)
Title: Il Cancello Della Morte
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: Somnambulant Records
Rated: *****
The return Of Habeeb with this disc is a treat, and one I have waited for since his last disc, "Il Cancello Di Morte." This disc could be considered a continuation from the 3", and if that is the case, then it is a continuation into a dismal abyss. "Della Morte" has grown into a much darker beast, and touches less on the light atmosphere heard previously and goes straight for the throat, purely suffocating the listener with solid foundations, dirge-filled drones and sparse but extremely effective texturing. The disc clocks in at just under one hour and the 8 tracks flow seamlessly together, till a sample in the intro of the last track, which takes you away from the depth of this release for a second, but only momentarily and you return to the full and corrosive sounds.
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Artist: Pascal Comelade
Title: Back to Schizo (1975-1983)
Format: CD
Label: Gazul Records
Distributor: Musea Records
Rated: *****
Pascal Comelade is, apparently, a French pioneer of minimal, experimental music dating back to the early days of the synthesizer. The track listings in this compilation of early works spells out the instrumentation used in each, more often things like toy keyboards, toy saxophones and regular acoustic pianos than actual synths (in this case, to be precise, the Synthi EMS-AKS). Clocking in at just over 41 minutes, most of the 26 tracks appear to be not much more than short pieces of sonic wallpaper, in the form of tape loops, chiming and tinkling little abstract melodies, simple scales, and ambient treatments. In a couple of the songs ("Fluence" and "Ready-made 4", tracks numbers 1 and 21) are heard swooshy electric guitar overlays, strongly reminiscent of those on Robert Fripp & Brian Eno's 1973 epic "Heavenly Music Corporation," two years precedent to the starting date of this CD retrospective. (Eno and Michael Nyman are, in fact, listed among his influences.) There may be question as to Comelade's possible influence on important Industrial/EBM ancestors such as Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire, but clearly his work is not as truly pioneering as might be assumed.

Nor, in the present time, has he moved on much beyond his toy piano arrangements, or improved his original repertoire. An online look at his more recent catalog reveals weird, ethnic-sounding hybrid titles (seldom with any accompanying audio), and covers of old standards like "September Song" and rock songs like the Stones' "Brown Sugar". Still, monsieur Comelade becomes more and more intriguing the more one listens and investigates--and this reviewer can only conclude that Back to Schizo may be the most promising and logical starting point.
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Artist: XDUGEF (@)
Title: ASDFHAKSFHASOSAUF & RETARDANT
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Distributor: CD Baby, Tower Records.com
Rated: *****
Interesting the way I discovered XDUGEF. I was researching some Sleep Chamber CDs I was putting up for auction on eBay when I came across a listing that said: "XDUGEF 2xCD - Noise Industrial SWANS SLEEP CHAMBER", so of course curiosity got the better of me and I had to check it out. It turned out that XDUGEF was an independent artist using "Swans" and "Sleep Chamber" to describe his music; it wasn’t actually a Swans/Sleep Chamber collaboration I hadn’t heard about. So I contacted the seller and asked him if he wanted his CDs reviewed. After all, something that had elements of The Swans and Sleep Chamber had to be interesting, right?
Adrian DiMond, the man behind XDUGEF, contacted me back and was most amenable to sending me the CDs to review. I received his package in a few days, which consisted of the 2 CDs and a couple of one-sheets with bio, pics and photos. While some of the photos screamed computer-geek-nerd’ (not necessarily a bad thing), his background verified and amplified my initial impression. Adrian was involved with a few musical project in the early 90’s, the most noteworthy being the Christal Methodists (irreligious techno-punk band from Chicago) before he took a job with H-Gun labs creating CG animation for a number of high-profile acts including KMFDM, Psykosonik, Meat Beat Manifesto, The Residents, Cubanate and more.
It was Adrian’s discovery of the technique called "circuit-bending" (a process of modifying stock electronic equipment by adding switches and knobs in order to mutate the function/sound, first realized by Reed Ghazala back in the 60’s) that led him back to music. (If you’re wondering where the review is on the CDs, I assure you it’s coming, just have a little patience and bear with me.) After making a few of these "bent circuitry" instruments, Adrian dubbed his project XDUGEF, named for an ancient Nepalese Buddhist technique for manipulating forms. It’s also supposed to be a mysterious software package of the same name being developed which makes extensive use of these ancient techniques to allegedly revolutionize the world of digital content creation as we know it. Whatever the case, Adrian’s XDUGEF may not revolutionize the world of electronic music as we know it, but it sure qualifies as an interesting listening experience.
Referring back to the beginning of this review (the Swans & Sleep Chamber references) I found nothing on either XDUGEF CD that reminded me of Gira & Jarboe (Swans) or John ZeWizz’s Sleep Chamber (sex-magick-ritual music made with synths, samplers and the jawbone of an ass). What I did find on the first CD "ASDFHAKSFHASOSAUF" is a collection of looped environments/ incidents in a low-fi setting that give the impression of a gadget factory run amuck. Discreetly looped noise-rhythms are the glue that hold the electronic effluvia together in the majority of pieces on this disc. There are industrial aspects to the various rhythms through repetition that never overwhelm but add depth and perspective to the individual tracks. Overall, the impression I got was low-tech sci-fi environments complete with RF hum (in spots), or too much blotter acid in others ("The Torture And Death Of A Chipmunk", where mutated bird sounds compete with an intermittent LFO modulated sequences and a flanged staccato rhythm that is consistent throughout). The 5th track on this CD, "The Nursery Rhyme Slowly Slides Into The Gapping Man Of My Adulthood" began as an Enoesque series of low, merging tones with another subtle sampled repetitive loop in the background pushing it along, interspersed with some buzzy elements. The remaining tracks continued to explore ersatz-industrial sonic environments and I couldn’t help but think that XDUGEF’s talents might be well served for video-game environments.
By contrast, I found the second CD, "Retardant" the more interesting of the two. The tracks seemed to be more fully realized and cohesive as well as more ambient’ in nature. And a dark ambient one at that. According to Adrian’s one-sheet, "Retardant" is comprised of sound bits slowed way down. Also incorporated are elements taken from recorded phone conversations and open mics going back a decade. Because these samples have been slowed way down’, their low tonal pitch and elongation gives them rather monstrous properties. I’m not sure if it was luck or precise calculation, but the construction of these pieces seems absolutely brilliant, resulting in a variety of disconcerting uneasy-listening environments that range from subterranean industrial workshops to deep space Lovecraftian atmospheres where unspeakable horrors dwell. All in all, a very good CD that succeeds perhaps even well beyond its intent.
Since these CDs are relatively inexpensive (between $5.00- $7.00 from what I’ve seen on the Internet, and an even better deal when Adrian is running an auction on eBay) I would recommend checking them out. If you happen to be a fan of experimental noise projects like Coil and Oval, you’ll probably be very happy with XDUGEF. I expect we’ll be hearing even more interesting things from Adrian DiMond in the future.
Artist: ANDREW LILES
Title: Drone works # 7
Format: CD EP
Label: Twenty Hertz
Rated: *****
Within the recent, and much deserved, flow of releases by UK experimental soundmaker Andrew Liles, one shouldn't miss this single-track cdr, which proves how Twenty Hertz is currently one of the best drone-related labels around. The untitled piece begins with a paranoia-inducing atmosphere made of static, sombre sine waves slowly uncoiling. Total black hole-style ambient whose nearest relation could be Nurse With Wound's "Soliloquy for Lilith", or Colin Potter's works on Twenty Hertz itself. Then, about halfway, Liles imperceptibly starts changing the mood, transforming anxiety in an ecstatic stupor, until, in the last few minutes, more recognizable sounds (cymbals, half-whispered voices, water) gently wake you - or just lull you to a different kind of dreaming.
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