Music Reviews



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Artist: The Caretaker
Title: A Stairway to the Stars
Format: CD
Label: V/Vm Test (@)
Distributor: Dense
Second The Caretaker release after critically acclaimed "The Haunted Ballroom" (evoking Kubrick's ballroom scene from "The Shining"), "A Stairway to the Stars" has been in the making for over two years and is built around forgotten ballroom classics from the 30es and the 40es. Comparisons to Richard James' "Selected Ambient Works II" (whom elegedly they collaborated with) are not way off, but you rather have to think of this in terms of original recordings restored, edited, processed and re-processed. The result is an awesome timeless soundtrack of memories where a predominant reverb wash helps amplifying the sensation of distance (in time). A true beauty, a record where time becomes a ghost, nostalgia becomes evocation and past becomes present. Old crackling tunes that become so real that if you close your eyes you can probably see ghosts from a past life dancing in front and around you with light waving moves and transparent faded blue and gray colors... Like memory loosing focus and detail, this aural record brings you back a dreamy history letting you fill in the blanks, while the lush ambient wash wraps you...
The record is released on V/Vm's label V/Vm Test, and if you aren't familiar with them and their controversial, silly, funny and provoking releases you should do some ressearch and find out what they're capable of! ;-)
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Artist: Weltschmerz (@)
Title: Capitale de la Douleur
Format: CD
Label: Eibon (@)
Weltschmerz (the world's pain, in German) are an Italian gothic band who started out around '94 on initiative of Monumentum's bass player Anthony Duman (I remember reviewing one of their earlier works on L'Alternative Dramatique once) but apparently they've been going a long way from there and are now signed to Italy's quality dark label Eibon (whose owner Mauro Berchi, mastermind of Canaan, also plays guitars with this band). "Capitale de la Douleur" comes as a beautifully packaged jewel case inside a cardboard box, with a nice smelling booklet containing the lyrics (in English, French and Italian; if you ask me gothic in italian sounds a little cheesy, but I guess it's a language like any other). Their music has evolved into a slow and grand gothic-dark mixture with layers of orchestral strings, slow but driving and huge doom metal sounding drumming (phat reverberated snare and lots of cymbals), melodic distorted guitars, many chorused arpeggios, piano, pushing bass lines, deep vocals (also a female vocalist is to be found on a bunch of tracks). It all evokes a little the Nephilim, Beyond Dawn and sometimes I even thought about the Spanish Heroes del Silencio, but it was probably just the Latin-ish language that brought that up in my mind, 'cause the Weltschmerz are a lot darker than that. In fact, the melancholy expressed by these eight tracks goes way beyond what dark-goth bands usually pull together: Weltschmerz is so grande that it's almost epic, and the powerful negativity that comes across is almost disturbing. This was such an intense and oppressive listening experience that you are gonna be begging for some sun after it.
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Artist: Steinbruechel
Title: Zwischen.raum
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Domizil (@)
Distributor: Dense
Pretty much your average Staalplaat record, only this time it is Swiss label Domizil (house/location, in german), sent to us by german promoter Dense. I am extremely glad that finally some stuff is coming in from Switzerland, my home country. No rhythm (except for the «rhythm that emerges only out of the nothingness of the silence»), only discontinued found sounds and digital noises, interrupted by silence, whether it be silence within a composition or silence between two pieces). I especially like Domizil's description when they say that «calmly flowing, the sound is capturing a space, then it is compressed and swings in an intensity that leads the listener to the inside of the sounds»: it's one of those times where it's useless to look for better words when the one we got do already perfectly describe it. This Swiss artist, using the moniker of Steinbruechel, has been around since '96 and has released various 7"'s, CDR's and one LP. The person behind the project also runs the Synchron label. S/he makes a rule out of the process of looking for sounds and utilizing them in a certain way, without forgetting aesthetics, you'll never get scared by a burst of improvise loud noise, you'll rather be floating in the wavy white environment that these soft hi pitched sound produce, eventually bouncing off the complex and asymmetrical webbed structures and patterns that he (or she?) has prepared and is developing under you. The nice art work helps imagination. "Zwischen.ram" (space in between, in german) is a 19 tracks 3" CD that you should check out only if you are open minded enough for light but highly experimental collages.
PS On their website you will also find a web only remix (in the mp3 section). Also check out the very cool flash website of the band!
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: definingTECH
Format: CD
Label: Orbisonic (Manifesto) (@)
Distributor: Green Galactic
Coming the stores June 11th is LA Manifesto records' sub-label Orbisonic's first release "definingTECH", a various artists comp whose primary goal seems to be to set a standard for the nu-new wave, or rather sort of an ultimate record about how older 80es electro has merged with new wave, which obviously isn't being used as a term the same way you're all used to back in the days. Let's put it like this: "definingTECH" is all about the new movement (wave) of dancy old fashioned electro-pop. It's the Kraftwerk playing with a Groovebox. The 80es' all-innovation-and-electronica attitude couples with today's desire to shake the boodie and just have a good time. The sampler has been put together by the authoritative and knowledgeable figure of Summer Forest (collaboration with Annie Leibovitz, writer for a magazine and of a book about the rave scene as well as director of a New Orleans electronic music scene report documentary film) and presents fourteen international male and female sound crafters, manipulators, Djs, bands: FisherSpooner, Memory Boy, Japanese Telecom, Miss Kittin & the Hacker, Shapeshiftr & the Sentinel, Dexter, Innate, Peaches, Bis, Adult, Bug Orchestra, Mr Velcro Fastener, Detroit Grand Pubahs, Felix da Housecat. The final result is a pretty heterogeneous album that keeps a common denominator in the synthetic computer driven patterns, the drum machine beats, the techno fashion with sneak-peaks at more commercial stuff as well as at more experimental things or just plain different approaches you might wanna check out yourself. It's a good starting point if you are new to the genre, and an cool album to have if you are into it already, but don't ever take anything for definitive, just keep exploring for even more cool stuff out there! Go with the flow!
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Artist: The Soil Bleeds Black (@)
Title: Mirror of the Middle Ages
Format: 12"
Label: The Fossil Dungeon / World Serpent (@)
Distributor: Middle Pillar (US), Dark Vinyl (Europe)
The Riddick brothers are back with what probably is their most medieval album to this date, just one more work of love in the plethora of releases since their beginning, in 1992. 11 tracks on two sides (yes you've read right, this is a thick phat 12" LP, and for those who just don't get it -the vinyl thing I mean-, there will be a CD version of this record coming in the summer on World Serpent Distribution) with an array of traditional Renaissance percussive instruments (kick drum and tambourine mostly, but also timpani, woodblocks and stuff like that), string instruments (harpsichord, lyre/lute, acoustic/nylon guitar, dulcimer/zither etc) and lots of different breath instruments (flutes, pan-pipes, recorder, bagpipe/cornamuse/bladder pipe -only once, on side A- etc), as well as jew's harp, organ -just once, on side B-, bells and more. [I may have missed, added or wrongly identified some in the list, because there are some many, and they're so alike and so rare]. Eugenia Houston, with her high-pitch voice (ideal for this kind of chants), has pretty much taken over the singing job. While the twins orchestrate the songs, only occasionally do they contribute with their deeper vocal tone to remind what TSBB are also known for. But like I said earlier, this is quite definitely their most medieval/folkish work ever. It sounds like they put the dark vein aside and concentrated on actually quite solar folk tunes, embracing an authenticity that I have previously only heard from La Camerata Mediolanense. And because the italian guys I just mentioned are among the leaders in the genre, if you are into middle-age sonorities you should know better and make sure that this record becomes part of your collection, no matter if on CD or LP.
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