Music Reviews



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Artist: The Hafler Trio
Title: Normally
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Soleilmoon (@)
Rated: *****
Hafler Trio's fans are accustomed to limited editions and special packaging, and their latest double CD "Normally" doesn't escape the pattern and presents itself in an astonishing Andrew McKenzie-designed folding cardboard package with diagonally cut folding paper sleeve notes and additional booklet with quotes... Very hard to describe, you pretty much have to see it. As for the musical contents of the two CDs, they are both based on the voice of Neubauten's mastermind and singer Blixa Bargeld. His voice has been used as basic source all resulting sounds have been elaborated from. Unfortunately we never get to quite hear Blixa's signature voice because the processing is so radical and total. Once we get over this major disappointment, we can try to enjoy the controversial and provocatory stillness and tranquillity of the two CDs. Minimal, subtle, subsonic, deserted and icy monotone sounds, slowly (very slowly!) but surely evolving and rising in volume across their entire duration. You'll have to sit through an entire 10 minutes before you even realize you've been listening to the CD and it's been happening all along. And it keeps going down that route for the entire duration of both CDs, so except for two short stages in the first CD where the sound gets piercingly loud (at least in comparison to the rest), between both the discs you'll never get any real "action" happening, so to say. While the former disc ("Normally") is said to be based on the three characteristic styles of the EN leader (whispering, hysterical and ordinary), the latter ("Sphotavado") instead arranges three vowels according to certain Sanskrit rules. The statutory meaning of this CD goes beyond the mere appreciation of tone and assertion of source and dips deep into the subconscious realm of psychic vibrations. Equally powerful and silent, at the same time.
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Artist: Muslimgauze
Title: Alms for Iraq
Format: CD
Label: Soleilmoon (@)
Rated: *****
Composed in Manchester in December 1995, just three years before his unexpected death at the young age of 38, "Alms for Iraq" doesn't come out on Staalplaat (as frequent readers of Chain D.L.K. might expect), but for the American outlet Soleimoon recordings (closely related to the Dutch label). Bryn Jones' 161st (!!!) album features 75 minutes and 26 tracks of mostly rhythmical-oriented material impregnated of electronics in the form of vibe, but also distortions, filter sweeps and choice of sounds for its repetitive patterns. The entire nature of this record is based around the stop'n'go of these repeating grooves and on the tricky misleading lo-fi abberations of dimming the volume of 20-30 dB's for brief periods of time to make it louder immediately after; from time to time "Alms for Iraq" sounds almost like a minimal glitch-electronics record, but chances are what is being conceived as such is nothing but what you are about to hear a lot louder a minute later (this might be a good time to warn listeners about the deceiving volume of the first 5-10 seconds of the record - don't be fooled or your ears might pay the price!). When the silence breaks the beats take over, sometimes even in the form of piercing noise loops. "Alsm for Iraq" is not monotonous. Instead its dynamic properties shed light on what maybe is/was Muslimgauze's production's most challenging and ground-breaking side. Of course your (dare I say) "average" Middle-Eastern percussion still find a way to sneak into and among the tracks, but the the electro-beat meets rhtyhm-noise meets middle-eastern grooves approach of this record is definitely among my favourite ones, not to mention the outstanding 6 panel A5-sized folding full colour digipack-style packaging with quotes, sleeve notes and beautiful pictures and art work. One of the best Muslimgauze records in a while, maybe.
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Artist: MINERVE (@)
Title: Breathing Avenue
Format: CD
Label: Pandailectric (@)
Rated: *****

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Born as a Pandaimonium sublabel dedicated to electro music Pandailectric in the last year grew really fast and in about a year they released about eight CDs. Minerve is one of their bands and it is formed by two members of Paradise Of Fear: Daniel Wollatz and Mathias Thurk. BREATHING AVENUE contains eleven tracks full of pathos and melody which mix gothic atmospheres with electronic sounds and synthpop structures. Daniel's deep voice and the melancholic melodies match in a good way the structure created by Mathias and tracks like "Antimatter", "Falling", "Afraid of myself", "Merge" and "High pitched emotions" shows really well the core of the project with their upbeat tempo and the catchty melodies. The album isn't all based on the same formula as along the forementioned tracks you can find also "Interlude" and "Epilog", where the band slow down the rhtyms just to experimentig a little more with sounds and melodies. A good one for modern electropop lovers.
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Artist: Mana ERG (@)
Title: The Blind Watchmaker
Format: CD
Label: Glyptique (division of A.P.D.R.A.M.A./Organic) (@)
Rated: *****
Mana ERG's brand new "The Blind Watchmaker" (out June 15th, on a sub-division of one of France's best electronic music outlets) is the fifth release by Bruno De Angelis (after three tapes in the ninetees and the mini CD "Borderliners", 2002). Although the name is most definitely italian, I believe he lives in the UK, from where he has been producing music for this new release with illustrious guests and collaborators, including: Russian Electroshock records label-owner and electro-acoustic musician Artemiy Artemiev; German ex-Kluster pioneering ambient/techno artist Dieter Moebius; Musica Secreta and The Tallis Scholars renaissance music ensemble soprano singer Deborah Roberts; ex-Scorn & ex-Lull member and Metamorphic Journeyman magazine publisher Antony Burnham, a.k.a. Antonym; didgeridoo player and Oltre il Suono webzine creator Nihm; and Attrition's mastermind Martin Bowes, who mastered this record. So now that we know that there's definitely lots of brain behind all of this, let's deal with what really counts: the music of Mana ERG is hard to describe and hard to file; it covers many grounds and finds its strenght in rare qualities such as dynamism and eclecticism. "The Blind Watchmaker"'s multifaceted production extends from electronic to dark, in a journey that encompasses so many genres and influences that it's hard to even keep track of your own mood and state of mind as you are violently pulled through its smooth soundscapes. The overall sort of "noir" approach brings that nice ill and sinister halo to the table, and you'll definitely recognize influences of early NIN (in particular think of Reznor doing his nasty and dirty slow pieces with piano or guitar loops, much rather than him screaming away over walls of distortion) when the atmospheres get cloudy and slow or when Bruno's collaborators Joe Erber (piano/guitar) and Tiberio (guitar) add their touch to the ill-lighten suites. The addition of d'n'b breaks and other sophisticated rhythmical figures might remind you of Apell, some older Eno productions and definitely some late Clock DVA. Young Gods-type sonorities are ready to take off on the wings of buttered IDM loops that wouldn't look out of place in some Boards of Canada/Autechre or other Warp artist's album (probably thanks to the aid of DJ/producer Lee Stacey). Brusaschetto/Mudcake-like gentle noise-making gives the album that rough edge, and even though most corners are rounded off, you'll always feel the scratchy surface underneath the hovering layers of sounds. Of course Bowes' presence is not a coincidence, as Mana ERG definitely looks up to the sound of Attrition or of similar bands such as Die Form. Bastard, Legendary Pink Dots, Visions of Excess, Kapotte Muziek, Ivan Iusco/Nightmare Lodge are some of the other bands that populated my mind while going through these tracks... Utlimately the electronic texturing of the record really shows great attitude and consciousness and builds intense statements and ballsy presence on minimalist structures that convey great sense of musicianship. It's such a diverse recording you'll have to listen to it many many times to even get a grasp of its complexity, which is great considering how basic the instrumental approach is. I have been listening to this for a few days now and if I didn't have to move on to the next batch in the pile, I'd probably keep going to appreciate all of the shadows and shades of its wide palette and array of sonics. Great record.