Music Reviews



Nov 07 2002
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Artist: SPRAY (@)
Title: Living In Neon
Format: CD
Label: Ninthwave Records (@)
Spray are a band coming from England (land that is showing good electro acts again after years of shoe gazers; as NME called the guitar pop bands in early and mid nineties) and LIVING IN NEON is their second album. The first one has been released in 1998 for Stone The Kubist and was titled "On Air, Tonight". The band had also a couple of songs played various times by John Peel, the famous BBC's dj (for sure you own at least one record of a John Peel Session of one of your favorite bands). Formed by Jenny McLaren (on vocals) and Ricardo Autobahn (all the rest) Spray are the perfect example of modern synthpop band: powerful, melodic and someway danceable. Their tracks are always pumping and energetic (the album contains few ballads, if I can call them this way) and from the lyrics of "I'm Gothic" I may say that they have got also a good sense of humor, here's the song's refrain: "I am gothic / I am pale / I am scary / I'm insane / I'm a loner / I am cold / I feel special when people don't phone". "Child Of The 80s", "Brainiac", "I'm Gothic", "I Kill With My Car" are for sure songs that can catch the attention of different kinds of audience. As bonus you can also find remixed versions of "Child Of The 80s", "I'm Gothic" (check the "Freestone" version which is gothic indeed with the bass guitar that seems playing a Joy Division's song) and "Spaced". Check their mp3 at their website and wait for their new MCD which will include tracks from their "I Am Gothic" remix contest.
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Artist: Golan Levin (@)
Title: Dialtones (a Telesymphony)
Format: CD
Label: Staalplaat (@)
Distributor: Staalplaat (NL), Soleilmoon (US), Demos (It), These Records (UK), Target (De) and more...
If I was still making music I would have done this myself sooner or later 'cause I always thought about the possibility of creating something musical with today's most widespread and intimate piece of technology of the Western world: the cellular phone.Apparently somebody did it before me and considering that somebody is 29 years old computer whiz Golan Levin, 32 years old sound designer Scott Gibbons from Lilith and sound artist Gregory Shakar, they did it much better than I ever could have done or thought.Anyway the day I never thought would come, the day major phone network providers and manufactures sponsor a Staalplaat record, has arrived: 200 people in the audience, 3 sound designers, 9 additional technicians, 200+ phones, 200 discrete channels of patched audio and a computer system that could trigger the sounds of these portable phones and play new custom-composed ring tones distributed via SMS (one of the many features that the shitty American wireless networks don't provide) before the concert. An audio-video matrix system allowed the creators of this amazing project to individually trigger (call!) these cell phones 8000 times in 30 minutes and at the same time light up the person whose handy is ringing in the audience and project a dot of light on two wide screens, while everything is also reflected by a 36foot/12meters wide mirror diagonally spanning from the stage to the ceiling above the people... A surreal third millennium scenario in which people can explore the sonic possibilities offered by the musical instruments, sort of an un-complete synthesizer, that one in ten people in the world have been half-unconsciously carrying around for the past decade in an ensemble context.Musically we are talking about a carefully choreographed cacophony of cell phone ring tones and dial tones producing everything from polyphonic drones sounding like a cello or a church organ hovering above the audience's ambient noise (coughing, laughing, talking, moving...) to sparkly mellow spatial chords sounding like frogs, birds, crickets or other bugs in the wilderness; from actual and logical electronic music improvised compositions with melodies to the loud cacophony of 60 (the maximum) hand-held devices ringing contemporaneously that you would only wanna be running away from if you were in the same room. Everything in between the two ends of the sonic spectrum is uncharted territory for new creations.The concert consists of three "movements": in the first one the audience's 200 un-amplified phones ring in various configurations; in the second one Scott Gibbons plays a solo on a small number of amplified phones (he prefers Siemens ;-); while in the third section the staff's phones dialogue with the audience's phone like a soloist would with an orchestra. The whole thing was recorded and shot on the 2nd of September 2001 at the big and beautiful Brucknerhaus Auditorium in Linz, Austria (as part of the TAKEOVER: the 2001 Ars Electronica Festival) and then again with a 99-piece audience from May 28th to June 6th at the Arteplage Mobile de Jura in Murten and Biel, Switzerland (jeeez, I can't believe I am Swiss and I missed it!!!). Of course such performance could only take place in Europe, where the GSM network (G for global), as opposed to the lousy CDMA digital network of the States), allows for much greater flexibility and creativity.As an owner of a cell phone I belive you must buy this CD to become aware of the unexplored potential of this modern appliance and to start pushing the envelope yourself, for this could easily become a new musical sub-genre in the coming years (maybe we'll have Dj's and Cj's - cellphone-jockeys!)... The CD comes in a nice digipack with a thick booklet stuffed with information and also has a CD-ROM section with loads of hi quality pictures, four mp3 files, a video of the concert, video interviews with its creators, links to various interesting websites and to the websites of the people involved in this outstanding project and a lot of written technical and philosophical material about the concept. One of the most forward-thinking records of this year! Definitely highly recommended buy!!!For more info check out http://www.telesymphony.com/ and if that doesn't work point your browser to http://www.flong.com/telesymphony.
Nov 06 2002
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Artist: Symbiont
Title: ology
Format: CD
Label: DSBP


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This Salt Lake City project, Symbiont, offers one powerful debut release with "ology". This is hard elektro, heavy aggression, dark venting without real violence. As many have said who have heard this CD so far they are a welcome refreshment of a dying breed in todays underground Goth/Industrial scene dominated by Future/Synth-pop and EBM. This is a harsh return to the dark agression of early goth/industrial and brooding violent moods. However, Symbiont is not one of those copycat sound-alike bands. EVERYTHING on this disc is highly original, well thought out, and masterfully produced. Every layer of every track and every sample is masterfully contrived. From the very first track, "ology" the title cut, this release lets you know what you're in for with some hard EBM styled beats, unique sampling, and very harsh/dark vocals. Symbiont is in my mind the culmination of what the DSBP Records sound has always been about in the first place. Symbiont just does it better than all the rest with a much more modern texture to it. Heavy club beats, harsh distorted vocals, and dark brooding moods. This is a must hear! I haven't been this excited about a hard/dark industrial project in quite awhile. The second track "Evilation" adds a tiny bit of techno influence that is subtly utilized amidst hard metallic beats and clean cyber sound structures. Symbiont mixes quite a few styles and lots of their own experimentation in this one release. The third track "Consummate Saturnine" for instance begins on a more somber and melodramatic tone of dark ambient. This moves gradually into a more classical sounding piece composed in an industrial style with vocal samples and screams for overall effect. "Step Child" goes back into a nearly Hocico styled harsh industrial-EBM with some hard driving quicker paced Noise rhythms that drop into a very harsh industrial body rock. What follows is one of my favorite tracks that will be of high interest to vampire fans and Anne Rice afficianados as well. "Aggro Culture" begins with a female vocal sample, a whimpering individual fearing death. This is followed by a male speaking about Death being no respector of age, etc.... Vampire fans will recognize this as the Theatre of the Vampyre scene from "Interview With A Vampire" in which the woman is killed on stage by hungry vampires. The samples used mix perfectly with the heavy EBM-Industrial styles and heavily distorted lead vocals. The overall track gives these samples the forefront of the attention. My favorite part of this is the attention to detail that the band uses in the second sample segment where the woman's voice is looped saying "I don't want to die" with various sighs, screams, and gasps in between. This is done is such a way that it avoids repetition of a single sample looped but instead creates a structure of it's own which matches the rhythm of the music in perfect sync as well. I was wondering when somebody was going to finally sample that part of that movie. After this is a hard Noisey ballad called "Rancor" with some more interesting samples in which we discuss the contemplation of death. Following this is "I Blame You" which begins with lots of noise and builds into another hard club hit. "Skinned" comes next and drops the pace considerably. This is where the album takes a unique dark turn. With an almost trance-like feel to it while maintaining the heavy rhythms the vocals are highly synthesized here. This later builds into another danceable track. "Fear IN Justice" follows this overall mood with a few quieter interludes while "Tri-polar" begins with a few ambient industrial textures and a sound which constantly pans left and right in a trancelike manner. Also, soft ambient synth is also used, like something you'd expect of Robert Rich or Steve Roach except that there is a certain brokeness to it that gives you an 'altered-state' perspective. This is followed by piano and vocal samples (I won't give away all the details here) but then the track builds into a driving EBM rhythm. Now this gets real interesting! The percussion beats used are all stomps like a drill team doing a routine to some kick-ass EBM-Industrial. This is a technique that many thought of doing in the 90's when Ministy, FLA, and Skinny Puppy were still the rage and militant dark industrial was the key to many new local industrial bands. Symbiont have actually achieved it! They have reached the state of harsh darkness akin to Electric Hellfire Club, Velvet Acid Christ, and Skinny Puppy with the harshness of bands like Hocico, Marilyn Manson, but all the wonderful EBM club beats we love that fits the modern age. The samples used are very selectly picked and oftentimes drive the track's theme and are an integral part of the track like the way TKK use to do it. At the same time other samples like screams, grunts, moans, etc.. are used like the 'impact' samples used by Front Line Assembly. Still yet others are used for sheer ambience, texture, or sound techniques like the marching rhythms and others. Symbiont not only have mastered creating an extremely dark album but also one that is both moody and very club oriented at the same time while utilizing practically all industrial sampling techniques in unique and masterful form. If this is a debut I can't wait to hear more! The entire album is lovable and each track for it's own reasons.
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Artist: Synthetic Hope (@)
Title: Distortion of Thought
Format: CD
Time for a bit of self evaluation here.For those reading this who may not know,Synthetic Hope is the product of my own personal musical meanderings.Just me and some half rate equipment, but I'm pleased with what I get out of what I have.The thing that strikes me upon listening is that i did actually mangage to capture a bit of a flow despite the songs here being written and recorded sparadically at points between mid-2000 and early 2002."Struck down"is a good choice for an opener.If nothing else that screech at the beginning cannot help but grab one's attention.The song's "spazzy" start, stop, build, start structure and glitchy synth parts and samples set the tone well for the rest of the album."Kill the trace" is probably the most "basic rock" thing on here.That being said it also features easily the best guitar work. I remember trying to add elements to make it more "electro" sounding , but it really just took away from what was there."Wrekk" builds nicely from its "computer in space" sample to a nice chaotic stomp.The album's "Ministry-isms" are then left behind for its decidedly guitar free middle portion."Jilted" to me, has always seemed to fit in the least with the rest of my work. It's not something I've ever really been able to place either, it just seems a little "bouncier" than the rest.It is however, one of the catchier songs I've done.Once it gets going "a clearing of the head" has some nice low buzzing synth lines over its understated beats.One of the few times that I've really gone with the whole less is more minimalist approach, and I'm pleased with the results."The eyes inside your mind" has always been one of the ones that I'm proudest of.Probably the most electric sounding thing on here, as far as cultivating a soundscape goes I'm not sure if I've ever done a better job (yet).Not to say that it isn't one of the catchier tunes here."When the ground burns away" steps it back up a notch with its heavy jungle drums and warped fake scratched melody.The guitars return to bring the song to it's climax."Spasm" marks a last ditch return to the albums thrashier front end before the album takes the dark turn.It's easily the song that frustrates me the most.No matter what amount of fucking around with the levels I did the whole drum/guitar balance would just never come out right and as it stands the guitar won. Like i said before from there the album darkens quite a bit."The calm within the storm" is a keyboard concated dive that has always felt somewhat aquatic to me.The synth lines just kind of swim around each other like electric eels in a swamp."Dream?" continues the water fixation with its prominant dripping sample.This is the first song written here, a kind of dark love song ala Skinny Puppy's "cult", and is the only to contain vocals.This is the one that I really have to go back and re-record someday.Theres a lot of potential in that song, but i was just starting to figure out how to record various things at the time and the result leaves something to be desired.After a two song absence drums return to bring the album to a close with "virus".This is as close to live Synthetic Hope that it gets for now as i recorded the whole thing in one take with no real altering.Just played the keyboard along with the drum loop.I find it to be a suitably ominous sounding way to close out the album.Like I said before,as a whole it manages to gel better than i ever could have hoped for.One thing that does bother me however is the great volume descrepency between some of the songs.For instance "the eyes inside your mind" seems to be about twice the volume as the preceding "a clearing of the head". Everything said and done I am quite proud of this album despite its flaws, and even if no one else on the planet cares for it i will remain so.
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Artist: VV.A.A.
Title: Square Matrix 001
Format: CD
Label: Alfa-Matrix


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Alfa-Matrix offers a 4 in 1 concept of 4 CD singles on one full-length disc. Strictly limited to 2000 copies this release features singles by Aïboforcen, Epsilon Minus, Plastic Noise Experience, and Hungry Lucy from the Alfa-Matrix catalogue. While this is a unique format it seems to be an excellent way for a label to introduce their artists to new listeners and give something unique to fans outside the standard compilation album format and get more people to buy the singles, possibly. Aïboforcen stategically position themselves in the new generation of EBM fans with a combination of energetic rhythms and melodic female vocals. Here we have the "Testing New Waters" single, four tracks one of which features a mix by ArtOfFact Records' Headscan. Recommended tracks would be "Give Me These Wings" which features a bit of male vocal too and the Headscan mix which adds a bit or a darker feel with some trance elements to the song. Epsilon Minus, based in Canada, start with "Through" in which the vocals are very smooth and match the EBM-Trance/Synthpop based music texture perfectly. The "Freedom" mix by Angels & Agony has a bit of the latter band's musical elements and a slight lean toward minimalist synthpop. In all honesty the vocals are bit weak only in the first portion of the track but as the music builds to more of club-based rhythm the vocals are much stronger as is the track overall. That however is my only criticism for Epsilon Minus as Jenn's vocals kick on most tracks as she has a great voice with enough power and sensuality for this type of music format. This is extremely evident with the next track which is mixed by Massiv In Mensch, another ArtOfFact Records artist that rocks this genre. Lastly, we have the album mix of "Through" which is a bit quicker paced, an excellent song. Next on the list is Plastic Noise Experience who begins with "Clean Head", a track with lots of Noise elements but with a pulsing dance beat and harsh whispery vocals. A bit more hard-edge and dark than the previous artists Plastic Noise Experience show another side of Alfa-Matrix. PNE is Claus Kruse whose compositions are more of an EBM-Industrial format. Alfa-Matrix describes him as, "harsh vocals and a very distorted type of sounds with virulent vibrating melodies", which is right on target. This single also includes remixes of the same track by Pzycho Bitch and Implant. The Implant mix is a bit cleaner and more of an aggro flavor while the Pzycho Bitch mix takes us in the exact opposite direction with a slower pace and more of a Power Noise rock-n-rhythm. The other track by PNE is Mechanical Beatz which reminds me of old SPK with the female vocals similar to the more operatic stuff by Die Form. Lastly, is Hungry Lucy, a sort of trip-hop gothic EBM in which Christa's vocals are very smooth and harmonious and the beats throb with a rhythm you can't help but move to. I love that 'twisty' electronic sound in the first track "Her Song". One of these days I'm gonna figure out how that's done (War-n?). War-n does some amazing synth work on this project that utilizes many genre elements to help create a totally unique sound in my book. Everything from Techno, Euro-pop, Synthpop, Industrial, Gothic, EBM, Trip-Hop, and of course a host of other club styles meld together smoothly in this interesting project. Haunting and danceable at the same time - love it! "Fearful" features mixes by Aïboforcen (my fave mix on this one) and Implant. The song "Storm" drops us back into more of trip-hop feel likened to Portishead with vocals as smooth as Tori Amos and music with a dark/ethereal dance beat. Alf-Matrix brings some great new and original works to light in this first of the Sqaure Matrix series!
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