Music Reviews



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Artist: Kyron
Title: Entheogenic Cowboy
Format: CD
Label: Black Note Music (@)
Rated: *****
Kyron is the work of San Francisco based Salvadorian artist Juan Carlos Mendizabal, who is also one of the driving forces behind Radio Free Clear Light. I have enjoyed RFCL’s albums I have enjoyed, so I was interested to see what Kyron had to offer. The press pages calls this “The hero's quest drenched in sun, blood, and gold dust. Naked, orgiastic, nomadic.” The longer description explains, “Entheogenic Cowboy is an ambient electronic journey through the beautiful and perilous terrain of the mythological wild west. This is a landscape that never quite was and never quite will be, a dream of the west played out in film and literature and the collective subconscious of generations. Sometimes flowering and climbing sweetly, sometimes biting, electric guitar mingles with ethereal loops and a driving aesthetic to create a chimera of musical arrangements spanning the genres of ambient dub, glitch, IDM, and minimalism.” The music is certainly varied, but not always engaging. As the album opens, I was surprised to get a kind of mellow world music vibe, but this seems to work. Then in “Dragon’s Breath” we have what can best be described as elevator music or the music that they play when putting you on hold. It isn't as bad as it could be, but it is pretty bland. “Beauty With Sharp Teeth” would be right a home as the background music in a new-age hippy shop. Other times work better, like “From the Ashes,” with its space-age bachelor pad retro-future sound and “Entheogenic Cowboy,” which has an almost surf guitar telecaster sound to it. Perhaps Kyron suffers from standing in the shadow of RFCL, but I found this to be a mixed bag and kind of bland. This album weighs in at around 55 minutes.
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Artist: Lärmheim (@)
Title: Cents Soleils
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
LÄrmheim is the work of Swiss artist Henri de Saussure. However, I could find little description of this album on his website. As for the artist, all we really know is that he is a classically trained musician (MA Contemporary Arts Practice, Hochschule der Künste Bern) and a drummer. As such, we are left to our own devices and the music must stand on its own. The album opens with “One Second Before The Most Blinding Light of All,” which is a serious glitch-o-rama. If you were to take any other song, then cut it up and assemble at random you would have something along these lines. “Deadeye” features long, quiet passages interspersed with crunchy noise and incredibly fast beats in the vein of Venetian Snares. This then shifts to a low-key synth composition with noise acting as the beat. “Trommelgraben” keeps the tension between quiet and noise with crackling electronic noise interspersed with sparse ambience. This gives way to a plodding, overdriven bass drum beat over staticy electronics. “Werkstatt Cysp” has more of an 8-bit sound and sounds like someone shooting a lot in an old video game. Pew! Pew! Pew! “Streichgraben” brings back the spastic beats before “Streichgraben” kicks in, sounding like a distorted recording of an engine repair shop before yielding to slow, heavy beats and sawtooth waves. “Alctrines” is grinding dissonance and silence, but “Video Game Soundtrack” almost resembles a traditional song, with some structure, synth, and percussion. “Werkstatt Fulx” likewise offers sawtooth wave a-plenty before “Rumori Danza” brings it all together: glitch + drone + synth + percussion. Oddly enough, after a long period of silence there is a short melancholy piano number hidden at the end. If you like it glitchy and noisy (but not noise), this is one to check out. This album weighs in at around 68 minutes.
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Artist: Matthew Atkins
Title: Geometric Decay
Format: CD
Label: Minimal Resource Manipulation
Rated: *****
In the package I received to review, this and another project by Atkins – Platform – was my first introduction to his work and the label he runs. Platform was OK, so I was interested to see how this album would stack up. The label describes “‘Geometric Decay” as “a seven track sonic collage of found sounds, field recordings and drones …. It’s a full bodied album whose textures teeter at the edge of noise in places. This is offset with almost meditative passages with snatches of repeated melodies and looped textural blocks, taking the original sound sources and placing them into new and unexpected contexts. Fans of Zoviet France, Francisco Lopez and Janek Schaeffer should find this an interesting listen.” Let’s see how the music stands up to the description. After a noisy intro, "Final Sunday" shifts into drums and random hitting things mode. "Two Objects" shifts gears with a more peaceful synth drone and a staticy beat. This is what Art of Noise would sound like if they had to make do with a broken drum machine. "Marshes" opens with aggressive snare drumming and machinery before changing into field recordings of animal calls and bird songs, giving you the feeling of being alone at night. There are pulsating synth drones and clots of clicks with heavy reverb adding to the nocturnal feel. "Paper" is much more minimal than the previous tracks, focusing mainly on beats and reverbed bells tinkling. It eventually becomes more interesting as it goes on, but still a bit too subtle for my taste. The beginning of "Untitled" sounds like 1950’s sci-fi UFO film before turning to quiet, peaceful, ambient, symphonic synth drone with waves of static. "October" is quiet with sudden sound hits that wake you up. The beats are mainly there as part of the atmosphere. "Malagan Sunset" closes out the disc on a slightly noisier note, with more clicks and washes of static, like standing next to the ocean. Jingling bells or chains with a lot of echo, rhythmic clapping and stomping with the sound of heavily processed voices and dogs barking. Overall this was a pleasant listen; well done, if predictable. This album weighs in at around 54 minutes.
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Artist: Master Class (@)
Title: A Kiss is the Beginning of Cannibalism
Format: Tape
Label: Broad Beauty Tapes
Rated: *****
Master Class is a duo consisting of Bert Bergen and Jesse Reiner. Other than that, I know little about this act. The tape comes in a knit sleeve, so I’m expecting some DIY oddness here. Their website proclaims, “Culled from freak-out sensory experiences in California, filtered through the austere assimilatory ethos of New York, Master Class has actualized. Master Class, a new martial ecstasy. A relentless rhythmic pulsing beneath the tectonic plates of melodic discordance undulating to transport initiates into the realm of disciplined bestial otherworldliness. This is Jim Jones guiding the People’s Temple while in an opiate haze. This is Father Yod’s terminal hang glider flight over the decayed monoliths of a forgotten sacred geometry.” After reading this I was expecting something a bit noisier than what I got. I was somewhat surprised when I heard what sounds like old school electro. Imagine Front 242 circa 1986, but with 2016 synths. This is not quite as stripped down as, say, Geography, but still with that feel. The main problem is that it became rather repetitive. The main departure comes at the end of side B with what I am going to describe as “droning and moaning.” I like old school electro. I’m a big fan of Front 242 and love Geography as an album. But this didn’t really do it for me. Perhaps it was just too repetitive for my tastes. But there is potential here.
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Artist: Guide To Bizarre Behavior (@)
Title: Volume 2
Format: Tape
Label: ShanGORIL la Records (@)
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed the Bongoloids’ album “4” and it was pretty weird stuff. This tape features the same players, so I was interested to see what a new moniker would do to the music. In this case it seemed to make it all the more strange, while retaining the sense of humor that I enjoyed so much in the previous release (I mean seriously – Suzy Creamcheese? Frank Zappa reference for the win!). At times this is improv along the lines of Zoviet France’s “Loh Land,” as in ‘Pianner Jammer,” and other times there seems to be an actual song, with bass, guitar, and vocal samples such as in “Whisper Blizzard.” But this was all a set up to get you to let your guard down before they get weird. I’m talking The Residents level of weirdness. In fact, this was the main comparison that I can make here. The lyrics border on absurd and show that they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. For example, “Justin Timberlak” features lines like “Do you want to live on the bus, like bus people?” and “get a cure for the clap.” This tape is kind of awesome and a lot of fun. If you don’t have enough weirdness in your life, you need to pick this up. If you like The Residents, you need to pick this up. If you need a good laugh after the election, you need to pick this up. What I’m saying is that you need to pick this up. This is limited to 100 copies, so if you need something to make you smile, get this tape before you have to turn that smile upside down.
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