Music Reviews



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Artist: SANCHO PANZA
Title: Ball O' String
Format: 7"
Label: Superglider (@)
Really intimistic and touching "Ball O' String" is the first band's single. Everything about this single is particular: the atmosphere, the hand painted cover of each of the 500 copies and first of all you'll notice a sense of unbeatable melancholy while listening. Sancho Panza is a new project of Paul Hanford from Brother In Sound and it's like a collective featuring also Russel Kemp and Matt Shaw. Even if vocals recalled me Psychedelic Furs the music hasn't goth nothing to do with that band. "Ball O' String" is a calm song with a beautiful melody but it's in the background that weidness is taking form as you can find: samples of various nature, a trumpet, a chorus that made me think of the 60's lounge records and so on. "Nuts In May" instead is like an acoustic field recording where you've got to switch the sounds soming from mother nature with guitars and echoed light noises (it may be a treated snare drum). I'll try to explain the thing the best way I can: listening to this song I had the sensation that it wasn't exactly a song (even if it's structured like a song and it has got vocal parts and some improvisations), it was like the natural sound I had to listen while looking to the single's painting of the cover. It was like being in a different space/time. Senses go, you loose your attention and you let it flow...
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Artist: ROCK STONE (@)
Title: Cherry Vanilla
Format: 7"
Label: Plastic Pancake (@)
This isn't the first time I talk about Aug Stone as he was also the Lifestyle's guitarist (I reviewed their CD quite long time ago). To tell the truth this two songs single could fit also the new wave category along with synthpop. I'll try to explain: "Cherry Vanilla" is a rock based track, which I think is taking its inspiration directly from Jesus And Mary Chain of the "Happy When It Rains" period. "When U Look Away" instead is pure electro pop (without any guitar) and sometimes remember me the first Thomas Leer recordings. The tunes sound fresh and you won't play this single once. Another single titled "Song For A Girl" is on the way and a full lenght "Always Kisses" will be soon finished. Stay tuned!
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Artist: Alvin Lucier
Title: Vespers and Other Early Works
Format: CD
Label: New World Records
Distributor: New World Records
One side effect of making a landmark piece is that earlier work may be overlooked or remain obscure. Chiefly known for the breathtakingly reductive "I Am Sitting in a Room" (1971), Alvin Lucier has been exploring the frontiers where music and space meet for over four decades. Although Lucier's work is available on labels like Lovely, Cramps, and even Elektra (anyone remember the "Imaginary Landscapes" compilation?) early works like "North American Time Capsule" (1967) and "Vespers" (1969) lurked on expensive, out of print LPs. Released on the well-distributed New World Records label, "Vespers and Other Early Works" features five works that underscore Lucier's deceptively simple and ingenious use of sound, space, and technology. Even without knowing Lucier's ideas behind the pieces, this disc serves a rich sonic feast. "Vespers," originally released on Time/Mainstream Records, starts off with what sounds like the distant clack of billiard balls. The clacking multiplies and soon incessant shifts in tone, density, and location suggest an unsettling, alien telemetry. What is really happening is that the performers are using Sondols - echolocation devices that emit a beep. In performance, the performers find there way through the space in the dark using the Sondols (short for Sonar-dolphins) to converge on a central location. In Elliott Schwartz' book Electronic Music (Prager, 1975, 2nd edition), Lucier writes "With enough practice and discriminating hearing, human beings can learn to use the echoes of Sondol-generated pulsed sounds to measure distances, avoid obstacles and make acoustical signatures of reverberant environments." (p. 239). About the title Lucier comments, "...Vespers was chosen for the dual purpose of suggesting the dark ceremony and sanctifying atmosphere of the evening service of the Catholic religion [sic] and to pay homage to the common bat of North America of the family Vespertilionidae." (ibid, p. 240) Equally mysterious is "Elegy for Albert Anastasia" (1961-63). Created at the Studio Fonologica in Milan, Italy and subsequently remixed at Brandeis University, this tape piece consists of low tones moaning and rumbling at the threshold of hearing. Unlike the quick transitions and mid-range tessitura common to similarly contemporaneous electro-acoustic music, the looming quality of these slow, brooding, bass sounds is refreshing. Originally released on "Extended Voices," a CBS Odyssey Music of Our Time LP, "North American Time Capsule" processes speech, music, and who knows what else with the Sylvania Vocoder. The term is short for "Voice Encoder" originally invented to electronically encrypt and transmit speech signals. The result is an encyclopedia on how to use a Vocoder: susurrant, zippering whispers, oboe-like utterances, and other timbral turbulence makes this piece a delight. Although created in 1968 and 1970, the two other pieces on the disc "Chambers" and "(Middletown) Memory Space" were realized and recorded in the last two years. "Chambers" packages various location recordings into assorted packages. The sounds are modified by these packages, which to my ears sound like vases or other glass containers. For "(Middletown) Memory Space" Lucier asks the performers to annotate and then recreate the sounds of a city (whose name is inserted in the parenthesis and becomes part of the title). Both are alluring, delicate, intriguing works that merit repeated listens.
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Artist: Iannis Xenakis
Title: Eonta
Format: CD
Label: Chant du Monde
Distributor: Harmonia Mundi
Those wanting to investigate the startling sonic galaxies of Iannis Xenakis must navigate a constellation of releases on dozens of small and smaller labels. Where, then to begin? Here. Chant du Monde has reissued a superb out of print recording of Xenakis' early chamber and orchestral music: "Eonta"," Pithoprakta" and his breakthrough piece of 1955, "Metastasis," conducted by its dedicatee, Maurice Le Roux. These three works are essential Xenakis: the terrifying banshee brass of "Eonta" (with longtime Xenakis champion Yuji Takahashi on piano), the layered strings (each of the 61 string players have their own part) of "Metastasis," and "Pithoprakta," whose ferocious eruptions can still - after forty-seven years - teach (or inspire?) makers of Black Metal a thing or two. Along with the indispensable CD "Electronic Music" on EMF, this disc is the place to start with Xenakis. One reservation: given the CD's short (39 minutes) running time, this should have been a mid- not full-price reissue, but it's worth it nonetheless. Recorded in 1965, there is some hiss, but overall the sound is fine.
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Artist: CRONACA NERA
Title: Maniac series n.1
Format: CD
Label: Butcher's House (@)
34 minutes of power-electronics hysteria from the deranged mind behind Butcher's House productions and Macelleria Mobile di Mezzanotte. After a split cd with the above mentioned MMM comes this incredible cdr which immediately reveals him as one of the best Italian noise acts (ok, not that there are too many!). Overdriven synth patterns, waves of white noise, disturbing manipulated vocals... you know the deal, but Cronaca Nera has a truly malicious sound, in your face and really fucking violent! Cross Slogun and Atrax Morgue and you get close to the point. You can guess the lyrical content: bizarre sexual tastes, serial killers, yep, sex & death. I honestly find this much better than MMM's "Profilo ottimale delle ferite" cd on Old Europa Cafè; okay, MMM is more varied and has that sick humour, besides offering a great live set, but this material is just so much stronger, especially sound-wise... The "Maniac series" was a hoax, but I definitely hope to hear more.
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