Music Reviews



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Artist: Dean De Benedictis (@)
Title: Salvaging the Present
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
The second Spotted Peccary release in today's reviews comes from Dean De Benedictis, an artist with rich and varied credentials going back to 1990's. He's the son of TV series music composer Dick De Benedictis (Perry Mason 1985-93, Columbo, Rockford Files, Matlock, etc.) and has been releasing his own recordings since 1996. With a background in jazz fusion and progressive rock bands (he performed with Brand X on tour in 2004), Dean gravitated toward electronic and techno-tribal, influenced by such artists as Tangerine Dream, Mark Isham, Steve Roach, Robert Rich and Loren Nerell. He's had releases under the alias Surface 10 as well as under his own name. De Benedictis is the founder of both Fateless Records, and the Fateless Flows Collective, a Los Angeles group of electronic composers. Dean is also the co-founder and producer of Cyberstock, an outdoor music concert and visual arts display held in the Santa Monica Mountains. With all that in mind, it's a wonder that 'Salvaging the Present' is my first experience with his music.

Seldom does a one-sheet (the promo text accompanying the release provided by the label and/or artist for the review) do much more than hype the release, and I usually hate quoting them, but in this case, it's quite relevant. "Through the creative use of musical instruments and sound design tools, De Benedictis scores an emotionally deep, aesthetically appealing and technologically sophisticated triumph, blending organic and electronic expressions into a compelling panorama of music and sound." That just about nails it. But he didn't do it entirely alone - guests include Percy Jones (bass), Alexey Gorokholinskiy (clarinet), Peter Ludwig (cello and voice), Lisa Claire Mitterer (vocals), D'von Charley (native flute), Jim Goetsch (sax) and Angelo Elonte (violin). 'Salvaging the Present' is so far removed from what we've come to think of as ambient, that it is "sui generis," something entirely in its own genre. Yes, there are deep ambient passages, some techno-tribal, a nod to classical, world music, experimental, and more, but it has a special vibe to it that can't be pigeonholed.

It's grand and spacious, yet well-grounded. Sometimes heavenly, sometimes rhythmic, sometimes both simultaneously. The album has nine tracks, all of them over six minutes and under ten. The first track alone, "To the Ends of Elation" is a minor masterpiece with a richness and musicality that rivals anything in the cinematic ambient realm I've heard in a long, long time. It only gets better from there, and I'm actually awed by what I'm hearing. An incredible variety of moods and motifs that enthrall the listener, this is the kind of ambient that you want to pump up the volume for, not relegate to the background. So in that sense 'Salvaging the Present' is much more than just ambient; it is symphonic ambient without the strictures of classical music, or any traditional musical format. Yet, there are elements that will be familiar, and the way they are blended within the context of these soundscapes is indeed remarkable. This is really a beautiful album through and through, worthy of its lofty rating, and highly recommended.
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Artist: Rudy Adrian (@)
Title: Coastlines
Format: CD
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Coastlines' is New Zealander Rudy Adrian's 15th album release and 5th for the Spotted Peccary label. This is my first experience with either, and although I've been reviewing here at Chain D.L.K. for quite some time, it seems as though there is always something new to discover, even if the project has been around for awhile previously unknown to me. As you might surmise, Adrian is an electronic ambient artist, and the title 'Coastlines' is self-evident of the music. Well, sort of but not exactly. This is not 50 minutes of water lapping against the shore or the ocean crashing on the beach. There is a little of that to set the mood, but nothing so prosaic or boring; you could get that on some 'Environments' album.

Being a native new Zealander Rudy has access to all of its unspoiled spaces and breathtaking vistas, so it must be a Godsend for creating ambient music, and perhaps that's the reason why he's so prolific. Over ten tracks on this album, Adrian explores various aspects of where the sea meets the land, and within the confines of the concept, he presents a variety of aural moods that are mostly placid, sometimes mysterious, often meditative and always expansive. Natural sounds are occasionally employed to enhance the ambiance, but not overused. The melodic content is somewhat subliminal and elongated (not quite "melambient"), perhaps not as amorphous as Eno's ambient melodies, but subdued all the same. I suppose there are parts that could be construed as "new agey" (the chirping birdies come to mind) but these are transient motifs in a much greater whole. 'Coastlines' is slow and sedate, but rich with textures and atmosphere. At low volume it would be great for mediation, and even promoting sleep with its luxuriant tranquility. Imaginative and and engaging, 'Coastlines' has a wonderful flow to it that will make repeated listening a pleasure.
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Artist: Ulrich Mitzlaff (@)
Title: X-RUN-4 Prismatique
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Crónica (@)
Rated: *****
Background noises get typically considered a disturbing element of live recordings, but I won't say the same for this output, capturing a solo improvisational session by German (even if he resides in Lisbon since a long time) cellist and composer Ulrich Mitzlaff in a spacey hall nearby the motorway close to Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon under commission of the Portuguese National Civil Engineering Laboratory over two different days (November 30th and December 21st 2014). Besides the typical reverb added by vast spaces, the hissing noise generated by traffic as well as more or less distinguishable sounds of departing and landing airplanes seem to have been fully integrated in the recording as they were (without any treatment), and I'd rather say you could have the feeling that Ulrich's beloved instrument, as well as the stylistic shaping he evokes by means of it, got sometimes synched to the aural manifestation of human transportation. Covering an almost indistinct range between polka to skronk of free jazz till occasional episodes that could vaguely remind the prodigious counterpoints of Bach's Cello Suite 1 or even Beethoven's final parts of some of his more dramatic scores (resurfacing in particular during the central piece, the 20-minutes lasting "4-one", featuring Beethoven's just mentioned phrasing between 13th and 14th minute) features occasional percussive elements (mostly found objects and materials), highlighting the feeling of an authentic real-time recorded improvisation together with the performative fits of madness resulting into sudden accelerations of chord tapping and squeaking scratches (almost rendering the image of Ulrich while using his nails on his cello till they begin bleeding) as well as unexpected sparks of harmony. The instrumental eruptions, as well as their bizarre clutching with surrounding noises, could let you imagine that the composer/performer is just putting on an act a sort of dramatic fight between a forgotten cello and the rest of the absent-minded/absent-minding world; they are akin to two aural inputs or attractive poles that could vividly stage a struggle between emotion and apathy in the somehow alienating society we often could experience.
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Artist: Carlos Casas (@)
Title: Vucca De Lu Puzzu (Fieldworks #19)
Format: Tape
Label: Canti Magnetici (@)
Rated: *****
This new work by Carlos Casas is based upon recordings done in the Vucca de lu Puzzu, a mine in south Italy, where he was invited for a residence and where he fell during a recording session. So the piece is based also on the sound of the place and the sound of the magnetic resonance he had to do due to the fall. The result is another tile on his exploration on the sound of particular locations.
The side A of this tape is occupied by "Puzzu", a track based upon the contrast between the field recordings that generate a mass of sound which emerge from a quiet soundscape and radio frequencies which create a sense of displacement. The B side is instead occupied by "Vucca", a track based on field recording that are organized in such a way that the first part is almost noisy while the second is quiet and contemplative and the final part seems based upon real instruments, or so it seems, and ends in silence.
The impressive quality of his work is his ability to catch those sense of extraneousness of those places in relation of current urbanisation and, even if it's not something really different from his previous fieldworks, is another confirm for his artistic status. Truly recommended for fans of field recordings.
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Artist: Gaetano Cappella
Title: Maiella
Format: Tape
Label: Spring Break Tapes
Rated: *****
Gaetano Cappella is a young 26 years old guy coming from Abruzzo, Italy. On early 2015 because of a personal crisis he decided to isolate himself from the outside world just to get connected to nature. Once he made it he started to feel like the suffering of the earth was concerning and inspiring him. This, after being without playing for three years, made him started recording his EP "Maiella". Soundwise, the two sides of the EP are composed by field recordings and manipulated guitar sounds. Guitar loops where played using two portable cassette tape devices (the old walkman) and everything was mixed and played live on a Fostex four track recording device. No software have been used to record the music you're finding here. Personally I really appreciated the approach Gaetano had with his sound sources, as the small melodic parts are well mixed into the background drones which are enriched by flashing sounds and sparse rhythmic parts. Being magmatic and intense, "Maiella", before being released on tape by Joe McKay's Spring Break Tapes has been played live at the exhibition "Italt In A Frame", which was part of the Triennale in Milan. Gaetano has started to work to new material which will be part of a trilogy and part of it has already been used as audio installation at the Path Festival in Verona. Even if the tape sold out in few days after the release, you can check the digital files here https://springbreaktapes.bandcamp.com/album/maiella
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