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Artist: Phonothek (@)
Title: Red Moon
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release by Phonothek, presented with the usual apocalyptic inspiration with liner notes describing a world in ruins, reveals a different approach to dark ambient as it sounds more inspired by experimental and atonal music so the canonical form is almost absent or his heavily hybridized with form derived essentially by experimental music.
The collaboration with Keosz, "Yellow Forest", starts this release with a soundscape not based on a drone but on various samples arranged to create a sequence of musical movements with even some influence from modern classical, especially in the recurrent violin samples suspended by the emerge of the vocal samples which are the base of the sonic background. "Last Melody", with Cities Last Broadcast, is even more closer to classic ambient with the use of an evocative trumpet that has a smaller role in "Come In The Whisper", where the core of the track lies in the treated samples with an abstract structure obtained by the removal of recognizable characteristics, so it became closer to certain sound art rather than typical dark ambient; a structure that returns instead in "Cry From The Abyss" with a simpler background and an hint of drone. The quietness of a minimalistic track like "Margo" reveals the research of meaningful sound moments while "In The Smell Of The Wolves" is an interlude to "Mudra" where there's more a search for timbres rather than on dull cinematic effects. "Red Moon" closes this release with a melody for trumpet as the skeleton which sustains the noises in the background.
An almost excellent release which has a particular place in the catalogue of a label like Cryo Chamber as it marks a movement towards more experimental territories ad a deviation from his clearly defined territories. Truly recommended.
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Artist: The Knob, The Finger & The It
Title: Astro Camping
Format: LP
Label: Makiphon (@)
Hailing from the playful side of lo-fi electronics, the three piece The Knob, The Finger & The It (it’s unclear whether one of them is the Knob) offer up a short album of bouncy homemade grooves featuring steady percussive patterns over which electronic squeaks and oscillations bounce and glide. It’s extremely accessible, poppy stuff, especially on tracks like “Come To Ping As Ra” which has a feel-good vibe that’s a little too rare in more experimental music.

The second side is a little more sombre. The title track is surprisingly the most sincere-sounding piece, a mesmeric loop of light, xylophone-esque percussive clicks with Clangers-like electronic vocalising and slight string strums above. Longest track “When Pluto Was A Planet” is arguably the most indulgent bit, a steady smile-inducing bassline initially keeping things ticking over nicely before it descends into a chaos that’s the album’s moodiest section.

Originally conceived as an outdoor ambient project, this album is a studio production, with the exception of the last track on each side of the vinyl, which are authentic outdoor live recordings. The difference is relatively minor- the deep rumbling soundscape sounds almost as artificial as the other elements, while the other elements are stripped back to give way somewhat.

It’s a very accomplished set of tracks with a sound that manages to be both distinctive and familiar at the same time, a bubbly but not jokey set of electronics that are bordering on the timeless.
Jun 01 2017
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Artist: Mike Luck
Title: Kama
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk (@)
“Karma” is a strong two-track offering from Mike Luck, with large-scale symphonic production brought carefully into an EDM space. Synth chords come in waves over relatively light percussion. “Clash” sounds like the underscore for preparations to battle, with a subtle breakbeat that sounds like it’s itching to break into d&b (and which has caused Beatport to totally mis-report the BPM). “You” is more subdued, again keeping things percussively interesting and allowing bass tones to gradually stretch and distort, with interesting subtle use of vocal samples floating on the edge of audibility.

The only problem with these two tracks is that they’re both too short. At four minutes each, they’ve been bonsaied into a radio-edit structure that doesn’t really do them justice. “Clash” in particular feels like it stops before it’s done. Something this ambitious in its scale ought to be fleshed out to an album, as a 2-track release feels a little too much like a taster promo than a complete work.
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Artist: Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson
Title: Negative Chambers
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Miasmah
In “Negative Chambers”, Glotman and Erlandsson serve up a languid and melancholic eight-track collection of music with an organic, traditionally instrumented folksy, slightly bluesy core, to which subtle sound design has been applied to give extra breadth. A regular presence is the double bass, which steps and plucks its way solemnly through almost every track at a walking pace. Other instruments, ranging from guitars and violins through to gimbri, zithers and a tibetan singing bowl, are less frequent presences.

The result regularly has the feeling of a solemn and sincere movie soundtrack, with tension arriving from the spontaneous and unpredictable playing that often has an improvised feel, as well as from the electronic drones that sometimes underpin. The charming, slightly Eastern flavours of “Orchid Sedation” sound like an exposition on a spy movie theme set in Japan. In terms of cultural evocativeness it’s very broad, with the bass on “Ceramic Relic” feeling faintly Arabic while the acoustic guitar on “Libra Index” feels more like sparse introverted Americana. “Desacrelasation” eschews the lead instrument approach in favour of a long blended and sustained drone atmosphere.

It’s a luxuriantly produced collection of works that’s very expertly balanced, with several tracks explored and evolved for six minutes yet which never outstays its welcome. It’s cinematic yet not too on-the-nose and it never seems to lose focus. It’s impressive and accomplished.
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Artist: Emanuele De Raymondi & Marco Messina
Title: Saro
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: ZeroKilled Music (@)
This album is the soundtrack to Enrico Maria Artale’s very personal documentary film “Saro” in which he travels to meet his absentee father for the only time in his life. So the tone is as you may expect- introspective, emotional, and with a sense of journey.

The soundtrack brings together the minimalistic string arrangements of Emaneule De Raymondi with the synthetic sound textures of Marco Messina, and results in something that is fairly typical soundtrack fodder- broad sweeping tones, plaintively plucked guitar notes, long sustained strings. It’s a familiar recipe used on many soundtracks and to be frank, many parts of this release are soundtrack-worthy in that they provide a tone, a general mood, but are otherwise unexceptional.

Most tracks are either de Raymondi or Messina on their own, but it’s when they collaborate, particularly on “Viaggio”, that the most powerful result arrives. It’s a well thought-out collaboration and the two composers clearly complement each other well- hopefully they may have more extensive combined work in future. The suspenseful “Mare” suggests they could also turn their hand to action movies as well.

The strongest de Raymondi piece here is “Assenza”, with its deep bowed ominous dawn and conscientiously simple piano work. For Messina it’s probably “Non Respiro”, an unnerving and alien layout with an ebbing sense of danger.

At only 26 minutes it’s a very succinct soundtrack album, with many pieces presumably only as long as the documentary required them to be, when in fact some, such as Messina’s “Terra Distante”, could easily have evolved and grown further.
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