Music Reviews



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Artist: vÄäristymä / DRS (@)
Title: minimalia nocturna
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Eight Tower Records (@)
Rated: *****
Trying to document the actual frontier of the new minimal ambient drone, Eight Tower Records release a split album even if, instead of having one side of a 12", the songs are interleaved in a digital collection. VÄÄristymÄ is a finnish duo using mainly analogue gear while DRS is the project of Andrea Darse which uses synths and tape; both are relatively unknown even if they have a considerable discography.
The three track by DRS are based around a sort of ambient techno where the regular beat is used to tie the soundscape generated by the synth and the tape, so the music is mostly hypnotic, without a large dynamic and based upon some sound trick and "Äyahuasca" could be easily described this way while the absence of the beat in "Äyael" forces the author to focus on the development of the drone with subtle variation with an almost inaudible loop on the background. The last track, "Äcarya", is more based on the maximalist impact of a drone with a great sound mass.
The tracks by vÄÄristymÄ are shorter and more based on a structure so "radiopurkaus" tries to develop a sort of melody with the tones while a sort of loop (it could also be an enveloper on a noise) is used to obtain the rhythmic structure. The same framework is also used on "epÄluulo" with a noisier sound palette and "tÄhden iÄsnÄolo" uses some dreamy sample to break the boundary of the minimal structure used.
Both at the threshold between the exposition of their influences and the development of a personal language, they represent a project to follow to investigate the development of a genre which perhaps lacks the path towards his next level but it's something that it's ever very pleasant to hear for fans of the genre. It's really worth a listen.
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Artist: PIG
Title: Prey & Obey EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
The creativity of Raymond Watts, the man behind the PIG moniker and the mixing desks as a sound engineer of many well-known names of the scenes (Einsturzende Neubauten and Psychic TV) and also known to be one leg of KMFDM, is experiencing a real state of grace: he released a brand new album - "The Gospel" -, a collection of remixes - "Swine & Punishment" and a couple EPs. "Prey & Obey" is one of them and maybe the most interesting for a set of reasons: the eye (and the ear) could be immediately caught by the inclusion of the remix of the title track by another big name of electronic industrial and synth-rock scene as Leather Strip (...and certainly the remix by Claus Larsen - LS's birth name - is amazing, and IMHO I think he noticed - as I did - that the way of singing sometimes could resemble - it sounds unbelievable - the one of Pete Burns in "You Spin Me Round"), but the track could be a very interesting starting point for forthcoming musical blossoms, as it comes from the collaboration between Raymond and an important portion of industrial-techno band Cubanate (Marc Heal and Phil Barry). This is not the only collaborative track of the EP. Actually, the other two tracks came out of collaborations as well: the more atmospheric "The Cult Of Chaos" got handled by former Combichrist member Z.Marr (he also dropped an electronic remix of "The Revelation"), while the cheekily rockish "The Revelation" (many would be tempted to misspell the title as "The Revolution", as Raymond managed to pour the word 'revelation' into a set of common lyrical constructs where the word 'revolution' gets typically matched..) got forged together with Ben Christo (Ghost, S.O.M.). Furthermore, the Berlin-based producer En Esch pushed an interesting remix of the title track by pushing it towards the boundaries of easily chewable adaptation of electronic dance to soundtracks for those series full of murderers, vampiresque entities or zombie killers.
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Artist: Seba & JR Vallo
Title: -15/Bon Voyage
Format: 12"
Label: Secret Operations (@)
Rated: *****
Just before the anniversary output related to the first 15 years of the label, Seba's imprint Secret Operations dropped this delicious tidbit, one of the fruit of the recent collaboration between the mastermind behind the curtains of the label and Patrik Valousek in the guise of JR Vallo (a bicephalous drum N bass entity which already landed on the catalogue of Fokuz, the amazing Dutch label powered by Triple Vision). The features of typical outputs by Seba can be easily caught in this new collaborative act: fast-rolling rhythmical patterns and perfect cuts masterfully softened by liquid sonorities, a formula that works as dream boosters besides inspiring flows to the dancehalls. My favourite track of the two tracks is "Bon Voyage" as I enjoyed the way by which they stretched in and out a slightly distorted low frequency as if it were a sort of elastic band, keeping together the crystalline beeps (the first sound you can hear since the beginning of the track), the percussive elements and other synth-driven softeners, that altogether render a comfortable high-speed journey. On the other track "-15", these guys roll and shuffle more or less the elements (plus a female voice shouting "Take it away"), but the elastic frequency is an almost neutral item of the track, focusing on stop'n'go sequences that made me think to an expedition to explore or escape from some glacial region, during which the brave explorers had to face obstacles like icy giants.
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Artist: Swarvy
Title: Bop
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Paxico Records
Rated: *****
In this game called survival of the illest, Swarvy is a prime contender. The L.A.-based soundsmith crafts a veritable skating park of samples, audio pixels, and sparkling data streams in which fortunate listeners may half-pike to their heart’s content. The title track is a calling card in this regard, reconstructing found elements in a rotunda of electronica and dub. And while you won’t find too many nodding heads in this cityscape, you will find something rarer: a nodding heart. There’s a delivery truck’s worth of love in every moment of this meticulous record.

In “Ahoy!” and “Krunchrap,” that heart is turned inside-out for all to experience. Through lo-fi veils and lamentations, its beat stitches the title page of a corporeal chapbook. In such surroundings, the artificial feels part and parcel of everyday life, while snippets of the human voice come across as robotic. Other times—check “Astrognats” in particular—the pulse barely finds purchase. The key to its survival is consummation of the ear.

“Scrapplefromtheapple” and “Wait4me” drop us into industrial milieus of signals and anti-signals. Between them flows a social lubricant that acts as a prophylactic against compromise. “Marzbow,” for its part, is a siren song on the theme of currency. And while in title it may seem to be a homage to Japanese noise legend Merzbow, it is delicately executed. “Circles” more explicitly stuffs life experience into the commercial meat grinder as fodder for the cloud. A storm brews but never peaks, much like the dreams we wrap around ephemeral conferences of wire, glass, and metal.

Not all is angst and ennui. Whimsy abounds. Whether in the trip-heavy bluster of beat pollen and inner drive that is “Iiicccccyyyymmiiiinnnttt” or the dessert of confirmation served on the vinyl platter of “Well,” Swarvy powder-puffs captives of the modern condition and sends them merrily on their way, crackling down to the marrow with summery promise.

Bop is proof that scratching the surface can be just as deep as grabbing hold of the molten core. It’s an educational experience, a syllabus of syllabi, each a masterclass in morphing image into sound, and vice versa.
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Artist: The Holy Quintet
Title: Borough
Format: CD
Label: Mikroton
A semi-traditional quartet of viola, double bass, zither and bass clarinet are joined by “suitcase modular and radio” for a two-part experimental piece concerned with the overlapping of mixed drones and sustained string bowing with analogue-style electronic tones and some spontaneous percussive interruptions. Unusually liberated from trappings of a theme or higher concepts (the album is named after the location it was recorded in), there’s a reactionary, improvised call-and-response flavour throughout that fuels the dynamic- yet much of the bass instrumentation is rather sombre and slow.

The ‘radio’ element is mostly crackly static-style sounds which often counterpoint the remarkable purity of pune that gets generated by some of the other instruments. That’s not always the case though, as sometimes the strings and clarinet are used more aggressively and percussively as well, in a way that occasionally sounds rather… well, rather farty. There’s a section towards the middle of part two which is especially dissonant, the album’s most challenging section.

Capitalising on a rare opportunity where the whole quintet were in the same city at the same time, “Borough” was recorded in one day back in 2013, but the slightly rough-hewn edges to this work seem deliberate and composed rather than simply undercooked. Here are five experienced performers enjoying the opportunity to collaborate on something fairly loose and free with likeminded other players. In terms of ingredients it’s nothing new, but as a confident, 37-minute avantgarde work it’s hard to fault.
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