Music Reviews



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Artist: Platform
Title: Folded Horizon EP
Format: CD
Label: Minimal Resource Manipulation
Rated: *****
Platform is the work of Matthew Atkins, who is also the force behind the label Minimal Resource Manipulation. This, along with Geometric Decay, another disc by Matthew Atkins, was my introduction to the label and his work. According to the label, “Platform’s new EP, ‘Folded Horizon’, is a beat driven suite of six tracks of experimental electronica. Each track has a unique atmosphere and together, they work to make a cohesive whole. From proto-junglist rumblings, Aphexy techno, scattershot drum programming and maths related vocal samples, this EP is bit of a treasure trove of contemporary electronics.” Sounds good; let’s see if the description holds up. If I had to describe this album in one word, that word would be repetition. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes repetition can be good. For example, the opening track, “Sudden Vista,” feels like it is channeling Plastikman with minimal repetitive beats, analogue synth, and a lot of staticy background elements. Others, like “Proun,” remind me somewhat of Autechre’s more minimal works. Other times, however, the repetition falls flat, as in the case of “Fifteen Fields,” with its repetitive female vocal samples that don’t really seem to add much to the track. Perhaps the best track on the disc is “Skeleton of Sticks,” with its complex, aggressive beats. Overall, this was a pleasant listen, but nothing that really blew me away. It is well done, but too minimalist and repetitive for my tastes. This album weighs in at around 24 minutes.
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Artist: Zephyrium
Title: Voyage
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
This project is a duo consisting of Juilliard-trained soprano Michelle Hache and Derek Smootz, the producer of ambient project Longing for Orpheus, along with several guest performers. They describe the album thus: “Zephyrium takes you on a journey through impossible spaces, reforging the masterworks of the Western Art Music tradition with the infinite variety of sonic textures provided by modern synthesis.” This is a lot to live up to; let’s see if they can pull it off. The album opens with “Amarilli, Mia Bella,” an operatic number with alto female vocals that is reminiscent of Ataraxia. “Pie Jesu” shifts a bit, with a downtempo beat that give it a poppy, yet ethereal, feeling. “Dido’s Lament” opens with whispered vocals and an overall melancholy sound. In “Pur Ti Miro,” the vocals dominate, which is kind of a shame because the music underneath is quite nice. This reminds me of early Miranda Sex Garden. This formula – strong female vocals at the forefront – dominate the rest of the album. There are some deviations from this. For example, the dancy beat in “Addio del Passato” is a bit jarring against the vocals. The closest comparison here is Die Form. I typically enjoy this formula, but I found this album to blur together. Where Die Form juxtaposes Philippe’s growling vocals against Eliane’s stunning mezzo-soprano, this album had an element of sameness to it. Part of it is the style of singing. My wife described this as “Broadway style” (i.e., Phantom of the Opera or Les Misérables). As a debut, it is promising though, and I would be interested to see how this project evolves. This album weighs in at around 47 minutes.
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Artist: Galati (@)
Title: Gletscher
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Psychonavigation Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Galati’s last album, “Mother,” for Chain DLK and enjoyed it, so I was interested to see how this compared. The label has not so much a description of the album, but a statement: “In search of silence. Among the great glaciers of Pakistan, Tibet and Greenland. Opalescent, vibrant, white, mottled ice. Ice in the soul, searing. Thundering, unfathomable, eternal, velvety, vital silence. The body ceases to be confined in an immobile identity and becomes stone, water; it becomes animal or light, it becomes space, and it extends to the limits of the spectacle of nature. Consciousness is diluted in the great whole, the process of identification with the world is accelerated. That is the experience of pantheism, as the first men have experienced it.” OK – so this is heavy stuff - let’s put it on and see if it lives up to the image. “Qualerallit” kicks us off with a 14 minute slab of heavy drone. This has a lot going on, it’s reminiscent of Troum in the way that they use slight dissonance in the track while still keeping it pleasant. “Hopar” keeps this going with a lot of motion throughout the track. This is drone, but it is constantly shifting, like sand under your feet at the beach. “Gharesa” is harsh, grinding, dissonant, noisy drone. This has a lot going on – layers within layers. This is not peaceful listening, but it has its own kind of beauty. Very well done. “Siachen I” keeps the same noisy dissonance of “Gharesa,” but adds an electric guitar component that would not seem out of place in a prog rock solo. “Kiattuut” blends seamlessly from Siachen I to the point where it seems almost like the same song, although the guitar has become just one more part of the drone by this point. “Qooqqup” shifts gears somewhat with a shuffling beat holding it all together as the drone continues its relentless effort to fill every part of the spectrum with itself. “Rongbuk” is like being in a wind tunnel as someone plays old school video games. Sirens and wails are buried in the maelstrom. Disc 2 lays down more of the dissonant soundscapes from the first disc until we hit “Shelkar Chorten,” a 19 minute composition that ends the disc on a more peaceful note. This album is, overall, quite pleasant listening. Despite the tinges of harshness that are woven throughout the album, this does not really come off as noisy. If you like your ambiance with a bit of an edge, then this is certainly worth picking up. Disc 1 weighs in at around 57 minutes and disc 2 weighs in at around 42 minutes.
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Artist: Nohno
Title: Longitude and Latitude
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Kodama
Rated: *****
I was unfamiliar with this project, which is a duo of Dean Dennis and Jose Snook. I did a double take and wondered if this was THAT Dean Dennis from Clock DVA and Sector, and yes, it is. For those who missed out on some of the best music of the 80s and 90s, Clock DVA was an amazing group, who had albums on such labels as Wax Trax and Industrial Records. They were known as much for their intelligent approach to music as their music prowess. Nohno takes this same intelligence and channels it in a different direction. The label describes the album thus: “Through this we are investigating location: creating a musical travelogue that explores our experiences or imaginings of particular places. This double album is therefore diverse: journeying from more beat driven pieces through Classical and Jazz inspired works, to more ambient creations and musical poetry. Through these various approaches we hope not only to impart notions of place and narrative, but also, in some instances, attempt to provide the impression of time.” So let’s put this on and see what we get. At first listen, Longitude reminds me of such acts as the Orb, Orbital, and Tangerine Dream, but this is more than just 90’s tinged techno. There is a lot going on here, with female vocals and complex rhythms that just barely keeps this from being played in the club. But overall, this is peaceful, pleasant listening. Latitude takes a slightly different tack. In contrast to the straightforward electronic compositions in Longitude, Latitude is a more abstract and experimental. The electric bass plays a more prominent role on this disc, as in the tracks “The Curve” and “Mid Point.” Others have a strange melancholy feel, like “Into the Here” and Miodowa, which features spoken word from Italian poet Elena De Angeli. As a fan of Clock DVA, it is impossible to not compare this disc to Clock DVA’s earlier, jazz-influenced works. Overall, this is interesting work and demonstrates a variety of musical styles without becoming disjointed. Well worth checking out. Disc 1 weighs in at 56 minutes and disc 2 at around 49 minutes.
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Artist: ][|][
Title: _|_
Format: CD
Label: Steelkraft Manufactory (@)
Rated: *****
I have reviewed several releases by this enigmatically named band, and all of them are quite different. This is no exception. The album consists of 9 untitled tracks, leaving you to figure it out on your own. I suppose this is par for the course when you can’t even say the band’s name. Putting on the disc, you are greeted with what sounds like a ghost playing the organ in a haunted cathedral. Heavy drone and synth washes emerge suddenly, making you wonder where they came from. The organ music continues through the next few tracks, somewhat reminiscent of Vond, until Track 4, which is more dissonant than the previous tracks. Walls of drone build until it feels like it is being squeezed out of an overdriven amplifier at high volume, with just a hint of feedback throughout. Track 5 is more subdued drone, with heavy bass. This would be right at home as part of a score for a scene where the protagonist is in a cave, unaware of some eldritch horror lurking in the shadows. Track 6 is more cinematic music, only this time the battle is over and the dead lie motionless on the field, made all the more stark by the wind noise of Track 7. Track 8 keeps the wind noise going with a droning atmosphere that seems like waves of static washing on the shore. Finally, Track 9 ends on a different note, with noisy wind and what sounds lie As always, ][|][ ‎takes is on an interesting ride. This album weighs in at around 76 minutes and is limited to 100 copies.
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