Music Reviews



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Artist: Voin Oruwu (@)
Title: Etudes from a Starship
Format: CD
Label: Kvitnu (@)
Rated: *****
Most followers and fans of the releases by Kvitnu, the label masterfully managed by Dmytro Fedorenko and featuring Zavoloka handling on graphics and mastering, matches them to more techno-driven and electromechanical rhythms and a certain martial attitude, in spite of some of the latest releases moved towards more experimental and ambient stylistic zones, but most of the artists manage to meet the tastes of them by impressive sonic artifacts. Kiev-based producer Dmitry Avksentiev aka Koloah forged the project Voin Oruwu to fly over those same stylistic territories by means of an imaginary starship! The sense of ascension gets immediately evoked by the opening "Titan", where a sort of cosmic synth-generated harpsichord weaves a web of tension and urgency around a whose sound set, which manages to render a feeling of gradual detachment, getting even more vivid on the following "Rising", where traces of known organic life get more and more distant until the final fading out, and "Blur Planet", whose combination of sounds marks the turning point and the somehow foreboding vision or memory of the left planet. The garbled refrains and the unstable melodies of "Source" as well as the corrosive sound manipulations on "Acid Clavi 2010" fully dives into sci-fi sonic environment, and I would say the same process occurs on the following where "Decay Instability" - the first moment where Dmytry gets closer to the typical Rhythmic Noise concept, pushed by many Kvitnu delivieries - could vaguely recall the refrain of the original version of Blade Runner. The feeling of being into a muffled bubble for extra-vehicular activity, that gets impressively rendered by the following "Even Mind", precedes "Limulus" and the moment (in the second half of the track) when the composer explicitly inoculates masterfully organized percussive elements and convulsive rhythmical patterns. The following "Escape Mission" and the catchy final "Ceremony" seem to be necessary stages of these journey, combining interesting sound techniques and a certain cinematic hook, that mirror Dmitry's interest in cinematography as well as mystical atmosphere in a so guessed way that some tracks of "Etudes from Starship" could be fitted for a sci-fi revision of Tarkovsky movies.
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Artist: Ernest Hood
Title: Neighborhoods
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Freedom To Spend
“Neighbourhoods”- sorry, “Neighborhoods”- is a deluxe re-issue of an unusual 1975 album from Ernest Hood, whose early career was as a jazz guitarist before contracting polio pushed him into playing gentler and softer string instruments such as harps.

On this album though, as well as gentle string plucking, there’s a strong emphasis on the experimental- wistful fluke-like high-pitched synthesizer notes borrowed from the sound of prog rock or 70’s era Radiophonic Workshop, and a bold use of ambient field recordings that are mostly familiar-sounding audio postcards that you may find on sound effects LP’s, but which are allowed to run deeper and longer than you may expect and really give you time to soak up the atmosphere. In the original liner notes there are references to “musical cinematography” which for 1975 does seem (marginally) ahead of its time. Knowing fading of musical motifs into gentle birdsong-and-vehicle-laden ambient tone certainly seems to predate and hark forward to work like The KLF’s “Chill Out”.

There’s something quite parochial about a lot of it, musically speaking. “At The Store” sounds at first like the incidental music to a light-hearted documentary about the routine of everyday suburban life, even to the extent that it’s structured in a set of easily-edited movements for easy picture sync. The harp tones of “August Haze” seem to paint an idyllic but somewhat Stepford Wives-esque picture of suburban tranquility, and “From The Bluff” is similar but with evening social hues. There are odder compositions at play as well, with “After School” a curious concoction of fun, energy and innocence blended with playground sounds, but which does seem to carry a gently mocking subtext. “Gloaming” is the track where most spoken word is discernible, with what seems to be a grandfather waxing nostalgic to an attentive child, accompanied by a thoughtful melody seemingly determined to paint a landscape of ‘the good old days’

It’s one of those releases which, on the surface, has dated somewhat- despite exemplary remastering quality, it’s still a release that’s of its own time. But in context it’s a fascinating period piece- not just of sounds of the era (albeit not wholly different from today’s sounds), but of a lesser-known bit of 1970’s experimental music for which a dusting off is very much justified.
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Artist: Daniele Bogon (@)
Title: 17 Encores
Format: CD
Label: New Model Label (@)
Rated: *****
The perturbed pads and the rising dissonant electrical interference of the opening "Ex Nihilo" are the sparkling aural events of this interesting album by Padua-born sound artist and academically trained musician Daniele Bogon, named after the already published album "17" in the guise of Alley and including the 10 tracks of this first output plus five additional tracks. Some of Bogon's musical background composition is manifested over the whole album, as on the following "Piano Song #177" - aptly intimate piano melody, that sounds perfect to follow the maidenly intro -, the intimately touchingintertwine of an imperfect minimal piano (recorded through close-mic), pads and brass of "The Tide" or on "Opono No Piano", whose piano elongations - recalling a piano refrain on Sebastian Tellier's "Le Ritournelle" or some moments of oldest compositions of other minimalists like Max Richter or Arturo Stalteri - closes the first part of the album, the one that retraces the tracks of the above-mentioned original release. By the way, I'm pretty sure that what is going to hit listener's eardrums more prominently are Bogon's electronic artifacts since the blurred fragments of conversation and the evoked a vague sense of bewilderment of "Airport" (far away from the known Brian Eno's sound in spite of the dry piano melody could sound 'Enoesque') or the harsh electromechanical spasms of "Insectx" - something closest to that branch of techno known as rhythmic noise -. Some tracks in the second part for some mysterious reason are somehow faltering, but what really hits in Bogon's music is the dangerous riding on a wire between anxiety and a sort of artificial calm, that he often translates into a sort of unstable stylistic balance between electronic ambient and typical OST music ("Wolverine", "Batman is Bruce Wayne"), that often embraces unconventional strategies in many moments of the second (previously unreleased) part.
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Artist: BirdWorld
Title: Unda
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
After meeting at an arts residency (in the canteen), Gregor Riddell and Adam Teixeira bonded over each of their field recordings, and for their debut album “Unda” much is made of the role fusing together these recordings plays in the 38-minute work. In practice, though, these field recordings are almost incidental textures or bookends at times. It’s an acoustic set-up of cello and percussion that really forms the core of this album, performing fairly energetic and jazzy duo numbers that flow with an underlying sense of good feeling.

Tracks like “WP” are good examples of the breadth of tone, packing a series of different moods into a five minute show of musical virtuosity. “Partials” and “Svifa” also shine, wrapping up the album in a broody fashion. This is firmly a studio album, overdubs and layering allowing the players to accompany themselves and create arrangements that are both bigger and more polished-sounding than any ‘true’ live performance would allow.

The most intriguing contribution from the field recordings is when they are used as vocals. What sounds like (possibly) language learning vowel sounds form a kind of mantra in “Fem mønster”, while “Choko” is a fun bit of chanting with varying levels of pitch and urgency. Less playfully, the male choir and extremely earnest spoken word tones of “Omaggio alla bellezza” very much has its serious face on.

Unfortunately this is one of those releases that doesn’t quite live up to its hype, for me. There’s a confident musical talent at play, for sure, and it’s a duo clearly reading from the same page in musical metaphor terms, but there’s something missing somehow in the innovation or inspiration stakes. If you’re looking to be calmed rather than challenged though, your take may be very different.
Oct 08 2019
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Artist: Only Now
Title: Captivity
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: SOUK Records
For this five-track, 27-minute EP, Kush Arora as Only Now fuses together a variety of genres into an energetic statement of musical intent. There’s the sonics and techniques of EDM, most obviously the gutpunchers and subbasses that begin the album, and a familiar palette of drones, kicks and glitches. But into the mix also go synth and guitar melodic loops, ethnic-sounding percussion patterns, field recordings and other sources of diversity. It’s EDM in a fashion, but the structures are unpredictable, the breakdown sections are longer and darker, the distortion and rumbling is harder and more evil.

It’s a dynamic expression of frustration that catches you by surprise, such as in the sudden dropped beats in “Mutants” or the spontaneous switch in “Slaughter” from angry industrial beats to a long wistful bit of guitar plucking that you might think of as a break, but which you gradually realise is a permanent change. Underlying grooves in tracks like “Bound 2” offer up a semblance of structure that’s nicely spread across the mini-album, and final track “Clock Lust” is an atmospheric ambient offering that takes the approach in a slightly different direction.

Pulling mellower sounds against distorted rhythms is not exactly a new trick, but there’s a vigour to the way this is assembled that gives this real merit. If you like your EDM seriously dark and introspective, this is sure to appeal.
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