Music Reviews

Oct 13 2002
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Artist: AntiQuark (@)
Title: Mask
Format: CD
Label: Pet Set (@)
When a new record doesn't click for me I listen to it over and over, even more times that I would play one that I love, trying to understand why it is that I don't like it and most importantly trying to make sure I can offer the readers an accurate representation of what the band plays, especially when the project or its people deserve it for some reason... This is one of those cases, and I hope I am not gonna be accused of sexism just 'cause I am not very fond of AntiQuark's material, since these two beautiful women are way into feminism and on a mission to turn things around in the male-dominated music industry. I respect that a lot and I am sure they'll understand that a review is nothing more than a mere personal opinion and that they really do have my support for what they are doing and for their ideals... Ideas that, like I said, are about the value of female musicians and about the true ethics of punk and of do it yourself (applied to whatever music one plays), values that I myself happen to share and strongly support. I am not gonna say they are rrriot grrrls, cause I know that Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill's singer, who allegedly started the whole riot-girl thing, but who also didn't want it to become the commercialized trend that it -was- turned into later on) doesn't feel very proud and well-represented by that name anymore; even though AntiQuark actually opened for Le Tigre (Hanna's new band). What I am gonna say instead, is that these girls are really into what they do and into how well they do it. They are serious about the message and about the music. Their background is also very interesting. Ant is an Italian scientist with a master in Marine Biology and a spin on shark's and marine ecosystem's protection. Maren is a sociologist from Germany. Strangely they didn't meet in Europe, instead they met in San Diego, California, where Ant moved to in 1997, after having founded and played with the Italian punk/hc band Hex and where Maren had already been living and playing with the punk band The Peppermints.Bet let's get to their music, the music they have been playing for a year now, since immediately after they met. The nine tracks of "Mask" present you with a visionary synthesized experimental electronic music with various assorted noises and with vocals that mostly seem to caress the dark/post-punk era with references to cyberpunk (the treated vocals of the last bunch of songs) and that sing lyrics in a style they describe as a mixture of Burroughs, Manson and Lewis Carrol. The reason why I don't really like this record (musically speaking) is because the sounds are very outdated in my opinion and the song's structure is over-simplified by the minimal sonics. It sounds like they'd like to have a stronger impact but that they don't quite achieve that, which is probably just a matter of time, considering they are a new band and possibly even new to the genre. They come from a punk background, where naturally guitars and drums allow for a much more violent attack; in other words, it's easier to get that level of strength with the instrumentation of a punk band than it is with synthesizers and computers. Anyway, while Maren sings the parts in a settled, laid-back, quasi un-caring mono-tone, almost spoken-word deep voice (hell, she almost sounds like a guy sometimes, instead of screaming her lungs off like she probably does with The Peppermints), Ant produces easy soft-techno and extremely minimalistic 80es-sounding ebm beats working around dark textures, synth lines and some occasional rough fuzz-storted guitar parts. Another thing I feel is missing are strong, dominant, full bass lines. It sounds like there is no bottom end and that they focused on the synthetic patterns, the pads, and the hints of melodies that the sequencers play back, but that they forgot to build a solid and consistent rhythmical section to support it. I don't know, maybe I am expecting something totally different from what they actually have in mind, but I would have thought they knew better... Anyway, aside of my personal tastes, I invite you to check out "Mask" yourself. They just finished promoting it with a European tour. You can get the record from their above-linked website (which among other things has a nice flash intro by an Italian comics designer called Fulvio Bisca), or from their own strictly DIY label Pet Set Records, which, I wanna add, they run with an admirable attitude that is true and real, an attitude that would make the music industry a better one if only more widely adopted.
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Title: Music For Humans
Format: CD EP
Label: Pur Zynth (@)
This has been a fantastic year for Empire State Human. They released different albums (see our interview, you lazy ones...), did some gigs in the States for the first time and most important of all, they are getting more and more attention and I assure you that they deserve everything they achieved because they are talented and kind. It has been also a pleasure to see a Mexican label (Hi, Oscar...) doing everything possible to release good stuff with this CD and with Nexus 8 which also remixed for this CD "Night Flight". MUSIC FOR HUMANS as the previous release, "Pop Robot", contains high enjoyable synthpop, with six brand new songs (along with those you can find a new version of "Night Flight", a remix of "Shoot The Breeze" and the mentioned "Night Flight N8 Future Light Dub") which are melodically and rhythmically involving. The tracks goes to the fantastic potential hit (damn the charts which doesn't realize how fantastic this music is) "Shoot The Breeze" to the darker "Das Kapitol" (which seems an intriguing electro kraut track) passing through "Scalper", "The Plutocrats" and other five. It's enough to tell you that I love their music? Don't you think there should be a reason? :)
Title: The Tears Of Things
Format: CD
Label: Somnimage (@)
Has been a pleasure for me to listen to this CD. You know, I studied piano when I was nine for five years and that has been useful to play my own composition later. Well, when I listened to THE TEARS OF THINGS I felt the same sensations of when I was into a dark room playing my piano. Stauffer's composition are light and gentle but suddenly they goes epic (like the second track "Imaginosis" which remembered me the soundtrack of the video game Warcraft) just to explore different atmospheres, where the piano is the main instrument while in the background synth pads write sinuous tunes which are capable to stop the time for fifty minutes. The tracks are someway linked one to the other and all of them are instrumentals. If you love Wim Mertens' music and you want something darker, try this one and let me know...
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Artist: Edition Terranova
Title: Hitchhiking Non-Stop with No Particular Destination
Format: CD
Label: !K7 (@)
"Hitchhiking Non-Stop with No Particular Destination" hit the street yesterday, October 8th, and sounds soooo damn american even though Edition Terranova (ex Turntable Terranova) are three skilled Berliners from the club Pogo circle of Djs. Their new work of love (after their 1999 debut "Close the Door") contains twelve tracks, among which a Bob Marley cover of the song "Running Away" and two bonus tracks. Mastermind Fetish, Meister and Shapemod (aka Jon Shapeton) pulled together a blasting sound system made up of keyboards, guitars and loooots of programming and vinyling... They are influenced by Detroit techno and by hip-hop in equal amounts, I'd say, but the final mixture definitely leans a bit towards electronica. The key is that they don't overdo it and know how to spice it up with nice beatz and groovy sounds and with a good dose of eclecticism and fancy artistry that brings rock and even Jamaica into contexts you wouldn't necessarily expect them to pop up. Among their instrumental tracks and their Londonish reverberated unknown looped sound-bits hovering over deep bass lines, you'll find lots of original material and good intuitions. Keeping it simple, keeping it real and adding estranged elements to the mixture they will get people dancing, no matter what. The most peculiar side to this album is probably the vocals, in all their diversity, political integrity and internationalism. In other words think Jamaican style singing, NY style rapping, Berlin style vocoding and London style whispering. They all make for a truly no-barrier-sound with catchy tunes, hilarious parts, intelligent lyrics.Guest appearances include Stereo MC singer Cath Coffey, NY poet Mike Ladd and Ariane from The Slits (a name that probably only die hard punk-rockers will recognize).If you are into it there is also an EP with the above mentioned Marley remake, one previously unreleased track, a cappella versions and remixes by Stereo MCs and DJ Naughty. You might also wanna notice that !K7 rec sells all CDs for just $10, so get down to business already!
Oct 10 2002
Artist: Cycloon (@)
Title: Scent
Format: CD
Label: Dark Dimensions (@)

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This is one strange release. There are similarities between all the tracks but the differences are more extreme. This mini-album by Cycloon contains six previously unreleased tracks besides the Nine Inch Nails "Happiness In Slavery" interpretation which was originally intended for a tribute release by Orkus Magazine. There is also a bonus Video clip. "Scent" is the first single to appear from the follow-up release Zeitseize. Cycloon is the solo project of singer Axel Kleintjes from Page 12. This is definitely a project full of surprises. The first track combines heavy Noise influences with throbbing EBM beats and as a starting track if you have not heard Cycloon before you begin to wonder what's up and where this is going especially since the vocals on this track slightly remind me of early TKK from I See Good Spirits, I See Bad Spirits. The second track begins with a nearly dub and ambient sounce effect style, some vocal sampling and added Industrail beats and very dark and harsh vocals. Further into the track you begin to hear some rather strong Skinny Puppy influences, especially in the vocal overlays, polyrhythms, and breaks. The attached video for this piece is a collection of industrial, mechanical, war, sexually charged and haunting images combined with very litte live outtakes. The following track picks up the pace and becomes more of a club oriented sound, as if we weren't doing well already, and they pound it to the floor. There is some rather slight Synthpop influences here as well but this track is just as dark as any of the others so far. An interesting turn is taken with the industrial dub-n-Noise sound of "Acivated". The "Happiness In Slavery" interpretation is just that and NOT a cover. This makes for a bizarre instrumental and the sound and style of the original is nearly unrecognizable. Default Set begins with some heavy atmospheres and samples that sound reminiscient of Pinhead from Hellraiser but then drop into some Noise and Klang styled rhythms. If you like Power Noise whith danceable rhythms here ya go! Lastly, Megabite is some heavy digitalia industrial with Gregorian Chant. Never underestimate the power of machines is the unspoken message here I believe!
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