Music Reviews



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Artist: Giulio Aldinucci
Title: Borders And Ruins
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Karlrecords
Italian sound artist Aldinucci’s first release on Karlrecords is a 50-minute collection of eight thickly layered ambient soundscapes comprising electronics, choral tones, found sounds and atmospheres with a deeply reverential and reverberant tone throughout. It’s an extensive audio sigh with a rich and cinematic tone and a very soporific atmosphere.

After the choir-heavy opening of “Exodus Mandala”, “Division” is a more industrial-toned affair. An arcing background electric hum gives an extra sense of unease in “Parole”, that goes beyond the initial worry that there’s a fault in one of your speaker cables, before the relaxing choral sonic carpet returns in “Venus Of The Bees”.

“The Pray (Dissonant Association)” has a more synthetic feel to it, the longest piece in which the washes and envelopes are more overtly expressed. “Chrysalis” has the same construction but alternates between two choral notes in a manner that begins to feel like a Philip Glass work. Final track “The Skype Cloud And Your Smile On The Left” feels like the most conventionally melodic, in relative terms, dipping towards being a digital lullaby of sorts.

It’s a rich, consistent and velvety bit of sound layering which isn’t overshadowed or made excessively sacral by the use of choral tones. All rather lush and premium stuff.
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Artist: Soviet
Title: We Are Eyes, We Are Builders
Format: LP
Label: Medical Records
This is an expanded re-issue of a synthpop album originally issued on CD in 2001 from an undisclosed number of Americans going by the name of Soviet. While it may seem odd to call an album that’s so heavily rooted in that 1980’s synth sound as dated, it still manages to feel like a product of its 2001 time. There was a boom of acts doing this kind of synthpop in the noughties, with some of the best examples found on labels like Ninthwave, and this feels like an unearthed part of that.

Perky but slightly thin Depeche-Mode-era-Vince-Clarke-style keyboard work and crisp drum machine patterns are the scaffolding for some fairly strong conventional pop songwriting, performed by a male vocalist with a voice that I’d harshly describe as a bit flimsy, gives us an album that’s frankly a bit synthpop-middle-of-the-road. Elements like the guitar on “Run In” have shades of Alphaville, while “Candy Girl” is willing to aim for the cheesier side of pop.

There is a good ear for melody in some parts for sure. “Marbleyzed” is a very strong pop song, let down by weak production touches (particularly on the vocal again), but if Soft Cell had released this song in the 80’s it would’ve been a hit. “Soviet Bot” is another highlight. “Breakdown” has a nice double-speed-chorus effect going on, and is one of several tracks that chugs along at a surprisingly high BPM (around 170 I think) which edge it towards a form of synthpop-happy-hardcore.

Ultimately this release falls a little between two stools- not properly 80’s retro, but not up to the standard of modern synthpop either- but if the song itself is crucial to you and the production quality not so important, you’ll find some tracks to enjoy on here.
Sep 28 2017
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Artist: Klein
Title: Tommy
Format: 12"
Label: Hyperdub
“Tommy” is a very difficult to fathom 24-minute collection of 8 tracks which take vocal and lounge-music-ish tones that sound like downtempo trip-hop and stick them in a glitch blender to generate something genuinely strange even by Hyperdub standards, even by ChainDLK standards in fact. A deliberate aversion to steady rhythm and a willingness to jump spontaneously between sombre drone and cut-up mania, partnered with a playful willingness to pitch down and timestretch vocals to the point of being unrecognisable and beyond, gives you something that’s genuinely hard to get your head around.

“Cry Theme” is particularly disorientating, taking one vocal snippet (possibly singing “never cry”) and pitching and retriggering it over detuned and flanged piano in a piece that seems to first clamour for your attention and then seems to want rid of that attention before returning with a brief train-like rhythm pattern that is one of the few parts of this work that feels deliberately structured.

There’s a strong sense of tragedy throughout, as though a melancholy is competing with a furious sense of injustice behind a mixing desk without either coming out the winner. The title track, a two-minute layering of off-kilter piano and busy café noises, is quite unrepresentative of the whole. The last two pieces, “B2k” and “Farewell Sorry”, are slightly more low-key affairs, although the latter started patterning up in a way that almost begins to evolve into rave music if you squint with your ears.

It’s entertainingly weird- and I mean that without a single negative connotation- and rather raw in parts, a bold mini-album of expressive and personal electronica that will inspire some people, and confuse the hell out of others.
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Artist: Pedra Contida (@)
Title: Amethyst
Format: CD
Label: FMR Records (@)
Rated: *****
In one of his poems pertaining to precious stones, the French poet Remy Belleau invented a myth about the one mentioned by the improv-jazz combo Pedra Contida (for the occasion made up of Angelica V.Salvi on harp, Nuno Torres on alto saxophone, Marcelo dos Reis on electric guitar, Miguel Carvalhais on computer and - last but not least - Joao Pais Filipe on an amazing set of metallic - mostly handmade - percussions). According to Belleau, Amethyst was a beautiful maiden, who refused the courtship by Bacchus, the well-known Greek god of wine, grapes and the inebriation induced by this lovely gift of Mother Nature. Mademoiselle Amethyste decided to pray gods in order to keep her uncorrupted (let's say so) and - it could sound strange - one goddess, Diana, replied and decided to turn her into something closer to pure quartz. I'm not sure that such a reaction was expected by that maiden... anyway as a consequence of such an abasement, Bacchus tried to corrupt the lady by pouring some wine into her new body, and that's a mythological explanation fo the reason why the related stone (considered a protection against wine-induced intoxication by ancient Greek believers) has that enchanting purple color. I'm not sure if these Portuguese musicians had this myth in their mind, but I hear something in the sound they explore that could ideally contain some of the aspects of that imaginary myth. The harp by Angelica and Marcelo's electric guitar, whose delicate picking opens the initial "Scree", by evoking a sort of gentle disquiet that gets highlighted by the smoky lines of saxophone by Nuno Torres. The whole atmosphere of the track gets more and more nervous over the track through a gradual agglomeration of pulses and prepares to the breaking dim light of the following track, "Chalk", where the initial tonal nodule by sax, percussions and electric guitar, provokes the asynchronous picking of the harp and the roaring distortions on guitar before the energy unleashed in the first part gradually fades out. This exhausted numbness following the tension of the previous track permeates the following and central output, "Agate", a sort of transition before the last two tracks where the joint connecting the elements is remarkably different. On "Obsidian", Torres' saxophone sounds like the unstable tiebreaker between Angelica's harp and Marcelo's guitar, whose fragile balance gets besieged by Filipe's crazy percussions and weird Carvalhas' inoculations, whose working is more clearly audible in the somber final piece "Touchstone", matchable to an annoying hangover after a punishment by Bacchus.
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Artist: Volker Böhm
Title: Endless Undo
Format: CD + Download
Label: clang
In this short 5-track album, classically trained pianist and now software developer Volker Böhm lays out a relatively familiar fusion of mellow classical composition and sharp digital electronic soundscaping, with crisp, lightweight, glitchy rhythm patterns. The bell tones are relatively pure, it breaks very little new ground, but it’s eminently smooth and very pleasurable.

After opening track “Heisenberg” spends the best part of five minutes exploring percussive glitches and electronic tweaks, we reach a more melodic landscape occupied by sparse but structured piano playing and soft chord pads. This gentle introspective sound continues throughout the almost ballad-like “Liub” and then deeper into the sleepy, drooping eyelids atmosphere of “Dezember”.

As the name implies, “Klicker” returns to a more rhythm-based arrangement, with short bleeps and effects very reminiscent of Venus Hum at times. At 35 minutes, it manages to avoid overstaying its welcome, and by the end of lush, Rhodes-heavy final track “Madeira” your state of relaxation ought to be complete.

The melding of mellow sustained chords with complex rhythm patterns has been explored in many ways before, but what this release doesn’t have in terms of originality, it certainly has in terms of polish. It’s a smooth, oddly relaxing work that really benefits from focussed, active listening.
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