Music Reviews



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Artist: Phase Conductor (@)
Title: Mostly Crew
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
The illbient genre was described as where ambient goes to school and gets shot, whereas Phase Conductor’s Mostly Crew is hip hop riddled with bullet holes, laying in the gutter while experiencing flashbacks of beats and rhymes before curtains. Maybe hip hop smoked too many dutches before getting rained on because a lot of these tracks are pitch shifted like listening to vocalists through a haze of Tylenol four’s. Mostly Crew is a mish mash of hip hop instrumentals and vocal fragments that are less about blending than veering into one another with the abruptness of a radio tuner changing stations. Think Madlib and J-Dilla, but rather than sourcing funk and soul, Phase Conductor sources the hip hop. Story goes that Phase Conductor producer Mike “Beef Terminal” Matheson bought a second-hand four track cassette recorder and found a Motley Crue tape still inside. Somewhat serendipitously, Matheson decided to record over it and some of those abrupt flashes of glam rock styles are actually sounds of the Crue. All these elements in tandem seem like this must be a train wreck of an album, but somehow, it works. This is because Matheson is a decades practicing beatsman who cultivated a casual mastery where imperfections and accidents are deftly integrated with the planned moments and both equally welcome. The emotions here shift from introspective instrumental hip hop that recalls DJ Cam to more kinetic old-school rhymers spittin’ serious flow. At 23 minutes, Mostly Crue is woefully short, but has all the surprising charm of digging out a sun-faded cassette tape lodged in a car dashboard window from ‘before-when’, then popped in the player for some warbly beat-junkie Zen.
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Artist: Dafna Naphtali and Gordon Beeferman
Title: Pulsing Dot
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: clang
“Pulsing Dot” represents a truly interesting collaboration that takes Gordon Beeferman’s avantgarde and edgy piano playing and feeds it to Dafna Naphtali who uses live processing and electronics to twist and compliment it on the fly. Naphtali also adds sparse and sympathetic vocalised elements.

Five lengthy pieces each evolve with ebbing levels from quiet to cacophony. Opener “Transmission” is imbued with a very sinister and foreboding tone, the alien bass notes and tensely hammered high piano keys feeling very suspenseful. “Surface Disturbances” is a more staccato affair, both voice and piano being used in a more spontaneous and percussive manner that’s rather theatrical. That attitude continues through “Ozone Tongues” which explores the lower registers more resonantly, adding warbling, slightly throat-singing-esque vocal wails as it progresses.

The well-thought-out evolution continues into “Elegy For Bones”, where the rumbling becomes more bubbly, the piano notes more pure and the vocal more operatic as it slowly unfolds into something more like a sonic daylight. “Orbiter” loops us back to a more frantic and again quite theatrical environment of short and fast-triggered vocals racing against relentless piano runs, which towards the end feels like it’s slowing, before a U-turn and build to a chaotic climax.

The result overall has the essence and energy of 1960’s experimental classical and electronic music, when this kind of performance would truly have felt like a new frontier, but baked with modern sharp-edged digital production touches that make it modern. It travels quite deep and doesn’t always brim with energy, but nevertheless it’s an interesting ride and a very successful collaboration.
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Artist: Sweet William (@)
Title: Time
Format: CD
Label: D-Monic Records/Datakill Records (@)
Rated: *****
Now here's a band I haven't heard anything from in a really, really long time. Not their fault though. This German band was founded in 1986 by singer/guitarist Oliver Heuer, and has had dozens of releases since that time. I know I've heard them here or there before, but I can't remember when or where. I don't have time to walk their back catalog to catch up (more new releases keep pouring in every day) so I'll be primarily concerned with this one. From what I remember Sweet William was ensconced in the Goth-Punk-New Wave hybrid genre, and Heuer's vocals were a bit Nick Cave-like, while the music was reminiscent of The Cure and New Order. I also recall them being kind of raw too. Over time I think the band's sound was refined, and polished, and 'Time' reflects that. The band covers a lot of ground over 15 tracks on this album, and while not every one is a winner, there is still plenty to enjoy. The album starts out kind of weakly with the low-key "A Face Without a Name," but picks up steam as it goes along. "Funny" is a throwback to simpler times but has mood and groove. For some reason "Kind" reminds me of David Sylvian, perhaps more in the emotion department than anything else. Electro-techno elements burnish "Say Good Bye" and now we're cookin' with gas. "No Need To" has plenty of Goth atmosphere with its spooky theremin-like synth and understated, nearly moaned vocals. It also reminds me a bit of latter-day And Also The Trees. Nice guitar work too. "out of Here" is the first track with some real punch. This is the kind of stuff you'd expect from a good Goth band with 30 years of experience under its collective belt. They tone it down a notch with "Slowdown," a track with oodles of drenched in reverb psych atmosphere and seething darkness. "Room" is the epitome of '90s Goth, yet with a sort of twist. It will remind you of what you liked about Goth bands in the first place. "Yesterdays" is another strong song with a simple but memorable guitar riff and a nice chugging groove. Bet it goes over good live. "out of This Blue" has a very Nick Cave vibe to it. "Magic of The World" is an interesting number that instrumentally builds with layered sequenced synths a good 2.5 minutes before any vocals come in, and when they do, they're synth-processed. The lyrics are mainly the song title, and perhaps that's all that's needed here. The ironically titled "Slow" really isn't slow at all and has this great moving bass riff with vocals that ooze over the top like molten frosting on a burning cake. "My Ignorance" should have been a better song with a good beat and great guitar work but just falls short of being memorable lacking a potent hook. That's redeemed though with "Confusion Taking Over" a mind-bending gothy psych-out that's bound to leave an impression. It all ends on a "Summer Night," a song with a provocative groove, some nice unexpected changes to keep it interesting and a moody atmosphere.
Overall on 'Time' Sweet William exhibits a good degree of sophistication with effective arrangements, excellent use of keyboards and electronics and varied songs. Worthy as it's bound to grow on you and stay on the playlist for quite some time.
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Artist: Glaukom Synod
Title: Vampires and Gorgeous Throats
Format: Tape
Label: Visceral Circuitry Records (@)
Rated: *****
This French harsh electro-industrial project has been around since at least 2005 with a bunch of releases prior to this one that of course, I've never heard. 'Vampires and Gorgeous Throats' is a 7-track EP because the tracks are all so short. What it is, is absolutely manic-panic synth and drum programming with as lot of sampling thrown in for good measure. It's all instrumental, as the only "vocals" are the infrequent spoken word samples. They are used infrequently, except for the archetypal "Tarzan yell," which forms the basis for "Jungle glaukom fever" as the sample is multiplied and heaped layer upon layer in this one. It's all too much and gives the music a cartoony ambience. In fact, many of the tracks on the EP sound cartoon industrial. Although there were a few breaks from the breakneck pacing, it was all a little much for me, and seemed like pointless hardcore at many times. Those who like their industrial rhythms spit out from a machine gun might enjoy it, but I'm not sure you'll be able to listen to it seriously, especially now that I've labeled it "cartoon crazy". Available on cassette or digital download.
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Artist: Chalung-Gra (@)
Title: Mostaferi
Format: CD + Download
Label: Facthedral's Hall (@)
Rated: *****
This French dark ambient industrial project comes courtesy of Le K. (Marc Reina), active since 2005. You might know him from bands he was involved in such as Sizzle, and Velvetine. Well, Chalung-Gra is nothing like them. 'Mostaferi' was recorded on a Tascam 4-track cassette machine (remember them? I used one in the '80s, good for putting down ideas on the fly) but mixed and mastered digitally by SomniaK. 'Mostaferi' is deep dark ambient, full of cavernous, subterranean drones in places the light just does not penetrate. Somewhat reminiscent of Lustmord in its density and intensity, these are regions best left to the experienced psychonaut to explore. While there is nothing that particularly distinguishes this sonically in the genre, there is a vastness about it that hides subtle elements that may be overlooked the first time around. Worth a listen for dark ambient fans.
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