Music Reviews



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Artist: Maninkari (@)
Title: L'Océan Rêve Dans Sa Loisiveté (second session)
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
While their last release on Zoharum, "Continuum Sonore Part 7>14", was a canonical but well constructed ambient release "L'Océan Rêve Dans Sa Loisiveté" is on another territory. Once again, is a second part of a release published on another label but it's completely based on traditional instruments: marimba, cymbalom and bodham among the others. The result is deeply based on repetitive and hypnotic beats and simple but catchy melodies which could create a sort of trance if they were not occupied with the variation of the overall release.
As all tracks are untitled, the hint is that the listener should take this release as a single track in nine movements.
The first movement of this release is based on the dialogue between bodhran-tar and viola which, with his long and sustained tones, seems not to follow the beat but this is due to the fact that the percussion is used as a voice, not as a time reference. The second movement is based on the cello and resonances with the percussion on a more canonical role. The marimba of the third movement introduces the listener towards another sound field based on the accumulation of the sources to fill the spectrum and creating an hypnotic sonic mass. While the fourth movement returns to the territories of the first, the fifth uses the reverb to create a dreamy atmosphere. The sixth and seventh movement are focused on the use of the cimbalom to obtain a sort of ethnic effect as it's a sound culturally connoted with the middle east, even if the use of synth create a link with modern times. The rhythmic emphasis of the eight movement introduce the listener to the final movement where the use of cymbalom and santoor permits the movement from rhythmical oriented form of strumming to more meditative ones.
Even in his rigorous use of the instruments, it's a sort of meta traditional music that could find an audience towards diverse genres from minimalism to ambient. Quite a surprise.
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Artist: Giovanni Lami (@)
Title: Hysteresis I
Format: Tape
Label: Tutore Burlato (@)
Rated: *****
After his remarkable "Bias", Giovanni Lami returns with a new project "Hysteresis" spanning among 5 release on cassette. As his work is firmly rooted in the exploration of the sonic properties of the tape, it's perhaps the right media for this music. "Hysteresis" is based on field recordings which were edited and manipulated on the same tape where they was recorded and, perhaps erasing and recording again, it's a refection on the documentary nature of the medium.
This part was recorded in Ravenna. The first side sounds as a memento of a field recordings; however, after a few seconds, what it emerges is the property of the tape to juxtapose his idiosyncrasies on the recorded materials. So, instead of being a quiet and almost photographic rendition of the environment where the recordings was made, it's the noise of the machine in the foreground and the recording in the background and the listener is faced with the sound filtered by the medium. The second side of this tape is, instead, more focused on the exposition of the recorded material rather than on his transformation using tape so the result is closer to an old picture with the patina of time rather than a collage with found second hand prints. What emerges in this side is the freezing of time by the document.
The result, even in his orthodox reverence towards the analogue medium, is personal enough to receive a mention in a scene where everyone seems in the reverence of a canon so the vast majority of the releases sounds interchangeable. The fans of crystal clear sounds should avoid this release but who's is searching for the ghost behind the document will love this release. Recommended.
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Artist: Common Eider, King Eider
Title: Shrines For The Unwanted, Respite For The Cast Aside
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
After "Extinction", this music and art collective returns with a new release mainly in the same vein of his predecessor; their music is a sort of ritualistic dark ambient with sparse moments of noise. But, while the previous release relied on that contrast, this one is more focused on the development of soundscape of great detail.
The first track of this release, "Cast Out To The Wolves To Be Devoured, They Were Instead Embraced", is based on the juxtaposition of a static and meditative drone and metallic beats obtained with a sort of cymbals, working more on the creation of an atmosphere rather than on the musical development.
"The Dark Winter" is even more hypnotic with his development of sustained noted obtained by strings and a crescendo which surrounds the listener. "Elk Tongue" is more or less an introduction to "Litha", a long and relatively complex track starting with an hint of a melody and the featuring of the growling vocals of A.C. Way in the background, in the second part of this track, the screams are placed in the foreground creating a dialectic with the quiet background which continues almost unaltered until the final silence.
While it's undoubtedly nothing groundbreaking, there's a lot of craft in the subtle construction of the track and this marks a release that is a sure pick for fans of the genre. Nice.
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Artist: Amp
Title: Q Factors (A Mixtape)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Ampbase
Though to the casual observer this would appear to be a diverse 10-track electronica album, the “a mixtape” distinction is here to justify this as a ‘bits and pieces’ collection of remastered and remixed material old and new, but not a ‘real’ album which is still forthcoming. But frankly if it looks like an album, walks like an album, quacks like an album… let’s review it as an album, albeit an album that’s almost absurdly diverse.

The opening “Drowning Mind” is a cacophonous bit of cut-up sample layering which gradually opens up into something that’s a sort of electronica prog rock of warped guitars, oddly time-signatured bassline and drum patterns that start simple and gradually get crazier. This set-up is revisited somewhat in “Waiting Room Blues”.

Tracks like “Hownow” and “Just Get It” use a similar palette with a more laidback and far more jazzy attitude, frittering around on the quirky side of lounge music almost. This is brought into darker territory with “D’Espoir De Mourir” which stays downtempo but adds just a hint of both industry and threat.

A little less appealing to my taste, “Loveflower” ups the guitar content with shades of UNKLE, and feels like a throwback to the 90’s guitar-based-trip-hop bands if I’m being generous (State Of Grace were one of my faves), or like a limp Noel Gallagher instrumental if I’m being harsh. It’s the slightly Delerium-esque vocal that makes this one worth a listen. Again this style comes around again on “Push ‘n Hold”, this time rounded out by a near-ambient intro and spoken-word male vocals that keep things rolling very nicely.

“Lost Love Cries” is particularly notable, taking a liquid drum’n’bass approach, the familiar arrangement of rolling bassline, mellow piano, crisp drums and melancholic female vocal but done to an extremely high standard and definitely a track for fans of soft d&b to check out. Final tracks “When & Where” and “Ombres Sur La Lone” drop firmly into ambient territory with lovely use of female vocal tones, a very comforting wrap-up- hypothetically, let’s say, a very good way to wrap up an album, if this were an album, which apparently it isn’t...

It’s difficult to know where to put this release. The closest comparison I can think of is Future Sound Of London, but that’s because their material (including under aliases) is so diverse as well that it barely qualifies as a comparison. It’s rich and deeply interesting electronica with a massive variety of sounds and influences and if this really is a prelude to an album rather than a ‘real’ album, it bodes extremely well for the material to come.

To highlight the ‘remix album’ status of the release, each track has a remix title, though I’ve only mentioned the central titles above for brevity.
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Artist: Gagarin
Title: Corvid
Format: CD + Download
Label: Geo Records
Graham Dowdall, current member of Pere Ubu and with a collaboration list full of big names, offers up an instrumental electronica album that’s evolved out of five pieces that were responses to five hills in Surrey. Wild field recordings from these hills are an element- particularly on tracks like “Reynards” and the slightly Eno-esque “Winterfold”- but certainly not the focal point, which is mainly playful retro-sounding synthesizer work that feels very 1980’s in parts- long pads, soft drum programming, warm analogue melodic keys and a few bleeps and bloops for good measure.

After the lush unfolding opening of “Gibbet”, things take a sidestep to the weird side for “Thetan” with some improvised and oddly chorded synth squelches that are reminiscent of 70’s Radiophonic Workshop crew messing about with new synthesizers.

Tracks like “Alienist” and “Oromorphian” are more moderated affairs, subtle and spacious downtempo synth environments with occasional sub-bass dummmms and a ‘road movie through an alien desert’ sense of pace.

“Seekers After The Truth” stands out thanks to a central spoken word vocal sample, rapidly cut up and repeating as though stuttering on an old CD DJ deck, over a surprisingly hollow underscore. “Roadman” sounds like a bit of late 80’s proto-techno that’s fallen through a timewarp. Conversely the broader sound and extra emphasis on melody in “Autonomist” has just a shade of Jean-Michel Jarre about it.

It’s a strangely sweet piece of analogue synth work that manages to be very polished, yet it recalls the joy of discovery of prototype synth experimentation as well, making it oddly timeless.
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