Music Reviews

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Artist: FAKE (@)
Title: Los Angeles Synthetic
Format: CD
Label: Static Sky Records (@)
Distributor: Metropolis Records
Rated: *****
FAKE is the solo effort by Clint Carney of SYSTEM SYN who had indeed a successful year 2004. But if you look for some similarities you wont find too much. FAKE is much harder and features some nice system critically ingredients. It seems that Clint offered us here a personal side of what's happened with and around him with a huge influence of the nowadays political and social situation. LA seems to have his very own interest and I have the feeling that Clint even just get more angry with the results of the US president election, some tracks ("To the Land", "Money to Kill for" or "Wake Up') here can be easily called acoustic results after a post election shock. While I really enjoyed his critically and full of sarcasm filled lyrics woven in harsh distorted and sometimes vocoderized vocals the music itself brings globally Dark Electro/EBM with a decent slap-in-your-face attitude. It is not that too overpopulated SC EBM output which have had too often in the clubs for years, it is more filled with some varied programmings and ideas. Globally a typically US Electro sound, this is something that Europeans will never be able to program, and also the decent included GEETAR on "To the Land" for example doesn't disturb me at all. Outstanding pieces next to the already mentioned are to me the title track and "UnEvolved" which can make you storm the dancefloors. SYSTEM SYN fans should give this (too?) rough output a test run at first, I personally prefer this FAKE effort. A big recommendation to get this!
Artist: The Victim's Shudder (@)
Title: In Lasting Joy, of Slowly Dying
Format: CD
Label: NOTHingness Records (@)
Rated: *****
I can’t say enough good things about this project! It took me a few listens to really appreciate the full impact of the album; but the payoff is pure dark delight! Lest my overt enthusiasm be misconstrued for manic-depressive syndrome, let me first say that I am a total sucker for well-done dark ambient music. And this is as nearly well done as it gets. The person behind The Victim’s Shudder goes only by the name of DM Winn, whereabouts unknown. The label, NOTHingness Records is out of Belgium. That being said, let’s get down to the music. "In Lasting Joy, of Slowly Dying" opens with a piece titled "A Sleeping Box" where droplets of water play against a clicking sound with baby-babble and the faint tinkling of an abstract music box melody that becomes more psychotic toward the end of this short, introductory episode. "Agnellus" continues the cycle with restrained high-pitched squealing strings and bits of a singsong child’s nursery rhyme. A thumb piano in the background plays a counter-melodic sequence and then deep cellos enter and somberly state the brief theme while a storm cloud of malevolence builds in the atmosphere. A female voice, which has been humming in the wings emerges wordlessly, comes to the fore and follows the sad and foreboding cello melody. All the while high strings still squeal in apprehension. A deep male voice has a muffled verbal exchange with the female voice while the music builds with menacing intent. The female voice rises, singing sustained "ahs" while strings provide backing accompaniment ending on a high, dissonant psychotic chord. The sequence repeats. Merely describing the mechanics of this doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It is so well executed that it’s mind-boggling. You have to hear it to get the full effect.The third track, "The First Sleep", again features the female voice (Diana W, who does a very nice job in a Black Tape For A Blue Girl sort of way) while harp, and strings play seemingly innocent counter melodies. A brief respite from the psychosis. On track 4, "The Fall And Embrace" a piano plays somber chords while in the background another sinister storm brews. More female voice, subdued and counter-melody string chords. The fem-vox continues to wordlessly sing her own sad song in an Ophelia-like manner and a sampled discussion on exorcism is dropped into the mix. The strings and piano build in an increasingly distressing manner. An impending doom may be at hand... "Bells" is another transitory piece, enveloped in the protective embryonic innocence of childhood. With "Nox Intempestia", we really get the impression of a portentous resolution soon to occur. The insanity grows with woodwinds carrying a demented carnival tune interspersed with stately piano chords and stray higher register strings while male voice jibbers in the background. "The Crashing of The Spheres" begins with the piano chord theme hinted at before, and now fully realized and expanded upon. And yes, there truly IS a crashing as the sound of glass smashes across the speakers and the sonic-storm rages and howls! And all the while the piano keeps playing... ."Mente Concipio", the final track, and longest piece from "In Lasting Joy, of Slowly Dying" sounds very-much like Ordo Equilibrio, with a recitation by a male voice over slowly played piano notes and a rich mélange of atmosphere. No point in giving away the words of the recitation, wouldn’t want to spoil your listening experience. You just need to hear it for yourself. This continues in a repeated cycle for eleven and a half minutes until its abrupt conclusion. On the contrary to being boring, it is GREAT atmosphere, totally gothic and sublime. There are just so many elements of some of the best dark ambient projects I’ve ever heard here (Ordo Equilibrio, Caul, Ildfrost, Lustmord, Endura and probably a heap of CMI projects) that this CD is a MUST HAVE for fans of the genre. Maybe The Victim’s Shudder utilizes more neo-classical elements than the average dark ambient project, and maybe that’s what sets it apart from the slew (as opposed to the few in years past) of composers in the genre presently. Whatever the case, I believe that if what you’ve read about it so far intrigues you, you will enjoy "In Lasting Joy, of Slowly Dying" very, very much. Note: While this release is a CD-R, NOTHingness Records is a CD-R label and you’re still getting a high-quality product packaged in a DVD-style plastic case. (At least that’s the way they sent it to me.)
Artist: Sliptbeat / Rumpistol
Title: Copenhagen Jazz
Format: 10"
Label: Auditory Designs recordings (@)
Distributor: VME
Rated: *****
Not sure whether the CD is fucked up or my player doesn't like cheap CD-Rs, but it doesn't matter too much because the original for-sale version of this split EP is actually released by Auditory Designs recordings on 10" vinyl (beautiful format)...I didn't get much listening out of this but from the few un-affected minutes, I could tell that Splitbeat are into jazzy downbeat lounge-chillout. They are a Danish duo that uses drums, electronica, rhodes, trumpet and vocal samples. The flip side is left up to the electronic artist Rumpistol, who I didn't get the pleasure to check out because of what I said above, but who I read offers a 12-minute-long track called "Crowds" featuring the talented Rasmus Kjærsgaard on tenor saxophone.Basically what we have here is an all-Danish product, three tracks, nice rare format, beautiiful relaxing music from Northern Europe, just what you need to cuddle up in these cold days.
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Artist: Sasha
Title: Involver
Format: CD
Label: Global Underground (@)
Rated: *****
I've already reviewed this record back in June when I was sent the advance promo copy by their promoter MSO so I won't be repeating what I already said. You can read my review by clickin on the name Sasha at the top of the review ( It's a great album, very intense, very true. Finally a different type of DJ album, where the DJ really is a musician and a producer and doesn't just label and market himself as such simply because he installed Reason on his computer. Sasha is a complete artist, one who takes his art beyond the mere act of mixing a bunch of records together in one continuous flow of music, one who re-works, possibly re-writes other people's songs, a symbiosis of a remixer, a mixer, a producer, an arranger, a writer, a Dj. Sasha is all of this and "Involver"'s re-elaborations of music by Unkle, Felix Da Housecat, Grand National, Spooky and Ulrich Schnauss prove it! What is really outstanding and worthy of mention and pretty much convinced me to review this album one more time is the art-work and packaging that the final release of "Inolver" comes in. I've never seen anything as beautiful and original. You'll have to see it yourself. The CD is packed in between a bunch of glossy postcard looking photos with notes about the song on the back (one photo for every song) plus cards for credits, back cover, front cover and more. All of these cards are shaped like a square with its outside edges bent inward. All of this is inserted inside an equally shaped soft plastic unfolding shell... Truly unique and magnificent... and what do you know, this review turned out longer than the original one ;-)
Artist: Juno Reactor
Title: Labyrinth
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
Over the years, Juno Reactor has established itself in the mainstream collective unconscious as the voice of high-energy techno music. From the early days of the psychedelic-trance of Luciana’ and Beyond the Infinite’, through to the more recognized contributions made to the Matrix films, Ben Watkins and his ever-rotating menagerie of contributing musicians have carved a niche for themselves above and beyond that of any of their contemporaries.More recent works have moved towards a fusion of techno with world-music. This has been done more creatively than the likes of Deep Forest or latter-day Delerium, thanks in no small part to the inclusion of genuine artists from other fields, and not just a heavy reliance on sampled chanting and beats. The pinnacle of this approach was achieved with Juno Reactor’s year 2000 magnum opus, "Shango". A blistering slab of passionate and original techno music, it was a consistent blast of adrenaline. 2004 sees the release of the followup, but does "Labyrinth" have the chops to match its predecessor? The answer, in a nutshell, is no. Not that it’s a bad release, but as we shall see, it falls short of its potential. "Labyrinth" is a nine-track release that clocks in at just under an hour. It sports the same spectacular production that has been a Juno Reactor trademark since the beginning; the engineering and mastering are a beautiful marriage of skill that creates a full, smooth audio experience regardless of sound system. This album is going to sound amazing no matter what it’s played on: impotent computer tweeters, glistening Bang & Olufsen sub-woofers, it doesn’t matter. Ben Watkins knows what sounds good, and it reflects in the aural quality of Juno Reactor.However, when we look at the writing itself, it becomes quite clear that there is little to Labyrinth that hasn’t been done previously. The CD opens on a high-note, with Conquistador 1 & 2’. This moody epic blends Spanish classical guitar with organic percussion and efficiently poetic synth lines. Sound familiar? It should; it is essentially a continuation of the opening track to "Shango", the spaghetti-western inspired Pistolero’. Similarly, the song called Zwara’ is virtually identical in mood and feel to the track called Hulelam’ on the last album. Sadly, these three songs are the highlights of the album, despite their similarity to earlier Juno Reactor material. This lack of innovation is disappointing, and compounded by the inclusion of two songs that were featured on the score for The Matrix Revolutions. These are supposedly remixed, but not to an extent significant enough to make them sound like anything more than they are; backing tracks to a fight scene we’ve already seen.Overall, Labyrinth is an elegant release that manages to artfully transcend its component genres, just like Shango did; however it does so at the cost of a certain raw vitality that fueled earlier Juno Reactor works. It is a worthwhile experience, but the lack of innovation and the filler tracks are a letdown after the highs of previous work. If you’ve never heard Juno Reactor before, then I’m sure Labyrinth will stand out as a dynamic, fresh approach to what techno music is capable of. If you’re a longtime fan of Ben Watkins, then this CD will fail to surprise you.
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