Music Reviews



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Artist: Leo Svirsky
Title: River Without Banks
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Unseen Worlds
“River Without Banks” is named after a chapter in musicologist Grenrikh Orlov’s “Tree Of Music” where Orlov draws connections between Western and Eastern traditions of using chant and raga forms to ‘eliminate the division between the physical and the spiritual’. Conceptually it’s a fluid and open-minded idea that eschews more traditional compositional form.

Musically, Leo Svirsky interprets this principle using a piano, first and foremost, and predominantly solo. Long rolling chord work and super-sustained single chords twinkle and play in a manner that gives us work that feels classical in timbre, but more mesmeric and sometimes even drone-like in form. When it lets up slightly, particularly in the title track, it falls back into more familiar and romantic-sounding themes; on “Trembling Instants” sounding somewhat glib at first. Some strong and deliberate stereo separation, pushing a piano across your aural field, adds to the sense of immersion.

Ten minutes in, other elements are introduced. The piano still remains at the centre but we are also given electronics, strings and trumpet- generally long notes, drawing lines of tension or support to compliment the musical core. In “Rain, Rivers, Forest, Corn, Wind, Sand” it forges an unusual hybrid of almost folksy acoustic drone with more contemporary-sound synthetic touches.

“Strange Lands And People” is the most sombre point, a ten minute piano ballad that is also perhaps the album’s most traditional point as well, and coupled with final piece “Fanfare (after Jeromos Kamphuis)”, a sparser collection of tip-toeing single chords, the album wraps up firmly ensconced in a sense of musical tradition.

It’s a piano-driven album that somehow fails to sing. In trying to find the fluidity and commonality among musical ideas old and new, it has landed in a kind of mediocre middle ground, neither truly one thing or another. It is perhaps held back by self-indulgent piano time where some of the more layered and collaborative sections would have been more interesting to hear extended or explored further. It’s pleasant enough though.
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Artist: Gudrun Gut
Title: Moment Remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Monika Enterprise
Gudrun Gut’s strong album “Moment”, released last year, gets revisited here for a four-pack of relatively straightforward, danceable slices of electropop that’s not nearly as dark as I was expecting. Chugging synth arps, acid squelches and lightly broken drum patterns are the bed for a respectful take on the four brooding original vocals.

Legendary German electro-techno producer T.Raumschmiere’s take on “Lover” is relatively mild by previous standards, and the Pilocka Krach remix of Bowie cover “Boys Keep Swinging” is nothing short of synth-pop.

Dasha Rush’s version of “Baby I Can Drive My Car” has a rolling, progressive-house-ish breakbeat and some lovely pads, but never quite manages to go anywhere, before the almost-ten-minute-long Paul Frick mix of “Musik” sets the breathy and understated vocal against an endearing slow rolling techno groove with a really enjoyable sense of purpose and some rather lush detailing, making it a standout.

No real standout reworks here unfortunately, but an enjoyable if surprisingly lightweight electropop supplement for fans of last year’s album.
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Artist: Erkki Veltheim
Title: Ganzfeld Experiment
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Room40
“Ganzfeld Experiment” is a single 44-minute work, pitched as an audiovisual work for electric violin, video and signal processing, but it is being released as an LP and I’ve only been sent the audio, so I am reviewing it on its sonic merits only.

Finnish-born, Australia-based Veltheim is a violinist, in a word, but he describes his practice as spanning “noise, audiovisual installation, improvisation, notated music, electroacoustic
composition and multidisciplinary performance”- and it’s the latter rather than the former we get here. Violin tones are barely recognisable as the source, especially at the beginning of the work, as they have been bathed and deconstructed by processing, pulsing and transformation into something decidedly more electronic in texture.

Instead the result is more akin to a crisp, lo-fi proto techno, with gradual speed and amplitude changes applied to gated and harsh metallic tones for something that’s a little sandpapery and a little dark sci-fi. Tone shifts draw out a form of melody that has the appearance, superficially at least, of randomness. Around fifteen minutes in arpeggios begin to form, followed by more distinct melodic pattern loops, offering a more overt compositional structure without really changing the sonic make-up. The natural progression for the melody is into frantic chaos, which duly follows, but by the final stretch of the listen, steadiness and flatter drones have been reestablished, giving a sense of coming full circle.

A couple of times, the pulsing fades away so thoroughly that it becomes inaudible, leaving behind nothing but crisp flavoured noise with echoes of rhythm in it- and it’s this level of variation that keeps enough listener interest to make it appealing, and the cyclical structure adds to that somewhat. Harsh for certain tastes, and perhaps lacking in variety for others, I’d still regard this as a strong bit of work in the rare field of violin-meets-noise.
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Artist: Aidan Casserly
Title: Black Eyes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
Aidan Casserly is always on the move and just after releasing his newest album as Empire State Human, he's already releasing a mini album of Dead Or Alive re-interpretations. For "Black Eyeas", he picked up five songs, all coming from albums and not as famous as other ones released as singles and re-imagined them acustically. Three out of five ("Then There Was You", "Special Star" and "Come Inside") are coming from "Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know". The original ones have an Euro pop flavor (even more commercial than their most successfull album "Youthquake"), with a bit of orchestration while Aidan versions strip them to the bone and slow them down. Piano, sax, a bit of strings and an intimate atmosphere give to them a new light. "Far Too Hard", from their first album "Sophisticated Boom Boom" already had an orchestral opening and a bit of French dramatic touch, so it was just ready for such treatment. Aidan pushed harder the "drama" pedal and gave a really nice performance (maybe the best of the lot). "My Forbidden Lover" was the closing track of the 1989 album "Nude" and was a dance pop track and in the new version is sounding heartbreaking and with a nice distorted guitar on the backgroud that help building the atmosphere. Nice EP not only for Dead Or Alive fans.
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Artist: Bushman's Revenge
Title: Et Hån Mot Overklassen
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hubro
In attempting to represent “A Mocking Overclass” or “A Mockery Of The Upper Class” (two alternative translations which in a way mean quite different things), Norwegian multi-instrumentalist trio Bushman’s Revenge offer up a broad palette of instrumental music that spans prog rock, experimental jazz, and to a slightly lesser extent, contemporary experimental and electronics as well. It comprises ten quite distinct pieces, that showcase the trio in more conventional drums-bass-guitar arrangements but also leave room for plenty of the more esoteric noises and found sounds- and even the odd dash of Wurlitzer.

Of the above labels, prog rock is the closest fit. Tracks like “Happy Hour For Mr. Sanders” are energetic prog to the core, it oozes the indulgences of the 1970’s in both its virtuosity and its skittish groove, while “A Bottle A Day keeps The Wolves At Bay” is a prime example of the more tripped-out and meandering swagger of the genre. “Toten” could stand its ground if squeezed onto a Pink Floyd or King Crimson album, “Hei Hei Martin Skei” ticks the obligatory ‘very long track’ boxes at 14 minutes of relaxed melodic and more jazzy noodling, while “Greetings To Gisle” brings the drums to the fore initially before, two minutes in, breaking out into a very coherent funk groove.

A greater breadth is on show though in tracks like “The Curious Case Of The Resting Blue Steel Face”, a rhythmless ambient drone layering that’s more relaxed yet also more than a little bit sinister. Despite its title “Ladies Night At The Jazz Fusion Disco” is similar too, not even remotely disco and only jazz in the most extremely broad sense, but with sitar-like drone noises that give a more Eastern-sounding flavour.

At times the anti-upper class theme is hard to spot, but- perhaps unintentionally- opening track “Sly Love With A Midnight Creeper” does sound like lift music from a very posh hotel, but with seedy undertones.

It’s another strong and fresh-sounding update of arguably old genres from the reliable Hubro label, and while I don’t think the upper class will be trembling in their boots or sobbing into their champagne as a consequence, it can still be considered a musical success.
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