Music Reviews



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Artist: Günter Schlienz (@)
Title: Autumn
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
The sense of this release is expressed by the quote David Pearce in the cover of this release: i see the leaves fall, in times of change; i see the trees fall, but i remain in the light of time, with the dawn. Günter Schlienz, who plays synthesizers and uses tape machines to construct his music, is that kind of artist whose music is rooted in the tradition and could be described as modern classical if he had used acoustic instruments as his music is evidently written playing an instrument with a melody in mind.
The sparse notes of "Oktober" open this release introducing a track which slowly unfolds exposing his layers one by one until they interact creating something at the crossroad between a drone and a soundscape as it has the apparent stasis of the first and the richness of details of the second until the sound of the wind introduces the second movement of this track based on sustained notes and cymbals. The sustained notes are the fundamental element also of "September" whose melody develops really slowly generating a sense of meditation and decadence until it fades under small noises at the edge of audibility that closes the track. The resonances of "November" are used to break the silence at the core of the first part of the track closed by the emergence of the notes of the second part that, like a sort of theremin, exposes a melody over a quiet drone in the background slowly ending in silence.
This is a release that could be enjoyed in a quiet mood and it's almost elusive in his evanescence. As an example of descriptive music, it captures the essence of fall and decay of the season which is dedicated. A really nice release able to change the mood of the listener.
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Artist: The Green Kingdom
Title: Harbor
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
As stated by Michael Cottone, the man behind this project, the title is a direct homage to the Cocteau Twins' "Echoes in a Shallow Bay" and this release is, in fact, overtly derivative of the sound of this band and not at a purely superficial, or formal, level but it seizes the essence of that music even without obviously the voice of Elisabeth Fraser.
The dreamy guitar of "Inlet" introduces the listener to the title track where the lulling rhythm and that sound of the guitar creates the impression of a vast and quiet calm. "Haze Layers" is instead a track based on synths closer to certain derives of ambient music while, in same framework, the return of the guitar in "Faun (enchantedforestmix)" generates a mix which reveals a musical personality and "Jade Star" is even more effective due to his catchy melody. The incredibly reverberated guitar of "Thermals" surrounds the listener while "Morrowloops" escapes a certain sense of stasis with his use of rhythm in the background. Without the guitar effects, "Evergreen Sunset" shows the sense of melody of the author and "Endless Blue Drift" closes this release with a long meditation for guitar ending in a silence which reawakens the listener.
As an homage, it's something that could not be rated in terms of novelty but in terms of personality. It could have been a sort of cover album but it's a personal vision of a sound that has marked a period of music with a sense of nostalgia but he accompanies it in the present day leaving a question of how it could sound with that voice. Recommended for fans of Cocteau Twins but it's worth a listen for all fans of shoegaze.
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Artist: Fossil Aerosol Mining Project (@)
Title: Revisionist History
Format: CD
Label: The Helen Scarsdale Society (@)
Rated: *****
Even if it was often paused and reprised, the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project was born 30 years ago, when a group of sound artists started something in between post-mortem scavenging, feverish looting of literally found sounds, tapes, and reel in the rubble and ruins of abandoned drive-in theaters and burnt out warehouses and Frankenstein-like resuscitation of aural memories on relics like fragments of 35mm film and open-reel 1/4" tape. The main relevant change of its modus operandi was the switch from analog to digital processing over the years, but the general allure of this proper historical revision, to paraphrase the title of this new output, remains unchanged. Opened by a track titled "Respooling the Relic", where a voice spells sometimes incomprehensible words that seem to repeat "this love is everything" or "everything is love" under the effect of a deforming helium booth effect, typical of old tapes, and closed by an equally process-focused tune titled "Deleting the Relic", where a clearer voice begins the mysteriously wooshed ones - reprising the above-mentioned ones - by saying "...and the hope comes...help me to see", this release includes really stunning moments of "revisionism". Such a revision sounds like the removal of residual grains of sand (the soft melody that sounds taken from a 70ies TV series at the beginning of the track could be a part of this remaining debris) that is going to lead listener to a cleaner entrancing frequency in "Filtered by Limestone", an hypnotical gradual descent in a surreal hallucination in "Naphtol Impermanence" (an extended suite that resembles Barbieri's "Voyage 34" to me, for some mysterious reasons), the overlapping and fading of parings and scrap of photographic memories in "Vestigal Sideband", a process that could vaguely described as the robotization of melancholy in the astonishing "iBlue", abstract agglomeration of mnemonical dust in tracks like "Mistranslated Practices" and "Principles of Shallow Water" or keys to open channels of communication between listeners and some hidden ("Squatters at the Launch Facility") or invisible ("iSky and Little Eyes") parallel dimensions.
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Artist: Parade Ground
Title: Cut Up
Format: CD + Download
Label: Other Voices Records
Belgian duo Parade Ground released a serious of singles in the 1980’s, followed by the “Cut Up” LP & CD in 1988. Then they disappeared off the scene for almost twenty years, before reforming and getting moderately prolific on the albums front from 2007 onwards. Other Voices Records has dug up the original 1988 LP and is re-issuing it as a download and a limited-edition CD.

So while Other Voices and plenty of other labels are putting out synthwave material that desperately wants to sound like it was made in the 80’s, this is an authentic 80’s work- and a really strong one at that. Some of the production has understandably dated somewhat- it probably wasn’t cutting edge even in ‘88- but it’s still a great listen.

It’s synth music with a dark edge, but it’s certainly not inaccessible. “Modern Hunting” has guitar elements that are a little bit New Order. Some of the grooves have hints of OMD. Vocally there’s a bit of a Julian Cope sound in there, yet on “Such Is The Bow” things go quite Marc Almond-y. There are contemporary comparisons aplenty. It has one foot in the cold dark geekiness of electronics, but the other foot in the sound of early 80’s indie rock as well.

It’s maybe clear that “Cut Up” didn’t trouble the pop charts too much in ‘88 thanks to a slight shortage of the catchy pop hook choruses that were required to compete for radioplay.

At 9 tracks and 36 minutes it’s a short and sweet collection of forgotten synthpop that’s definitely worth revisiting.

Plus, copies of the ‘88 CD sell for high sums online, and as a limited edition, the 2016 CD might turn out to be a good investment too!
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Artist: M-Fast
Title: Videoband
Format: Tape
Label: Other Voices Records
Recorded between 2011 and 2013 but released (digitally and on limited edition cassette) in 2016, “Videoband” revisits the sonics of the 8-bit computer era, but mostly opens it up into a broader, more lavish production space.

The instrumental melodies are bold, catchy and strong. There are hints of early Human League and Depeche Mode. The intro suggests that it will open up into broad workspaces like Tangerine Dream or Jean-Michel Jarre, but for the most part it remains tight, and restrained. It’s the sound of analogue tech and bedroom computer enthusiasts, not the sound of epic sci-fi.

“Arcade Bastards” is a highlight, a euphoric chord sequence and driving lo-fi beats that could easily have soundtracked a racing game from 1988. There are points at which the deliberate adherence to thirty-year-old technology does make the overall sound feel a little constrained and muddy, and you wonder whether a little bit of modern EQ and mastering might have made it sound better, but it’s certainly not weak.

Other highlights included the slightly French electrofunk-tinged “Disco Turbulence” and the bright poppiness of “Fox Hunting”.

It’s an hour-long hybrid (or 50 minutes if you discount the two cassette-only bonus tracks), halfway between a ‘normal’ album and a remix album, with remixes from other artists shuffled in amongst the originals. Sonically, you don’t really notice the difference- the transition is seamless. The Werdes rework of “Arcade Bastards” acts more like an extended reprise than a remix. Without reading the tracklist you would assume just a single artist was at the helm throughout, and over the course of an hour, it perhaps falls just a little short in the variety stakes.

When it comes to 1980’s vibes there’s a fine line between faithful tribute and cheesy pastiche, and at times “Videoband” jumps, briefly, over that line. But it’s having a lot of fun doing it, and the result is a solid bit of authentic-sounding retrowave.
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