Music Reviews



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Artist: [.que]
Title: Wonderland
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence
Tokyo-based Nao Kakimoto’s eighth full-length album is ten tracks of ideas spun off from the composing of the soundtrack to the short film Kurokawa Wonderland. While these ideas have evolved and are no longer the soundtrack album to that album, the sense of atmosphere and mood underscore persists throughout the 36 minutes of gentle super-warm-sounding electronica with folky and acoustic elements.

It’s second track “Faraway” that really sets the tone, with its gentle super-soft kick patterns and simple bassline keeping a steady and not too leisurely pace while piano and Rhodes-style keys twinkle casually on top. There’s a strong sense of journeying, which continues through the backwards-guitar-laden “Drip” and the opening-titles-of-road-movie-friendly “Vast”. Heavy use of reverse effects and artificial vinyl noise give “Laputa” a slightly more prog rock feel.

Inbetween these are piano pieces like “Quiet” and “Forest”, which are simple and plaintive unprocessed piano poems supported solely by ambient noises. Among the weaker pieces are “Afterglow” and the title track, both of which sound like production library music by-numbers more suited to corporate video than home listening.

“Wonderland” never really wrestles for your attention, preferring instead to be relaxed and soothing, background wallpaper if necessary. But while it’s a little generic in parts, it has some lovely deft electronica production touches and an undoubtable quality pervading through it that makes it a very enjoyable and mellow listen.
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Artist: MIR8
Title: Perihelion
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Shhpuma
“Perihilion” may be MIR8’s debut album (or mini-album, at 32 minutes) but the international crew making up the four piece have CV’s stretching many pages. So despite being a debut, this is a confident, accomplished and tightly woven work, combining mellow electronic drones with live, carefully measured drums, bass and trombone.

Across the four pieces there are a variety of shades. Opener “Longharms” is for the most part a relatively open, sparse and freeform soundscape, whereas “De Orbit” is underpinned by a very steady rumbling drum track that keeps everything grounded in dark cinematic tension. Hilary Jeffery’s emotive trombone work takes centre stage on second track “Scabrough Sky” to great melancholic effect, whereas finale “Event Horizon” opens with a driving tempo and an anachronistic sense of urgency which makes the trombone and electronics sound like warning alarms or distant declarations of war, before gradually edging down a few notches into something less frenetic yet still firmly mechanical, followed by one last evolution into a sparse cinematic sense of closure.

Overall the result is arguably lacking a unique MIR8 character, perhaps this will evolve over time, but nevertheless it’s a beautifully smooth listening soundscape with an accomplished breadth.
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Artist: Furvus
Title: Aes Grave
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Dark Vinyl
The first Furvus album in eighteen years is a cinematic journey of gothic neo-classical dark drama. Long drone bass notes, religious-sounding organ and harpsichord arrangements and sparse, surprisingly prosaic, militaristic drumming combine into a sinister arrangement, over which pained, gravelly male vocals sometimes strain themselves in Latin. It’s not a comedy album.

While opener “Missio Apostate” is a strong introduction, it’s closing piece “De Rerum Natura” that is the definite highlight, with a strong sense of the culmination of all the expression and tension having built up to this determined release of energy that seems to make sense of everything that came before it.

Pieces like “Melopoeia pestilentiae, caudata domina nostra”, with its horses hooves, distant bells tolling and whispered Latin incantation-style vocal, do border more than a little on the gothic cliché, but for the most part it walks its own distinctive and sincere path. “Pos de chanter m'es pres talenz” predictably introduces a chanter into the mix and makes you wish its authentic evocative tones had been present more often.

“Mon In The Mone” stands out as anachronistic- a folksy guitar and multi-layered vocal affair that takes a break from the dark drones in favour of a more around-the-fireplace-in-the-pub singing tradition. The other unusual interlude is the Gregorian chanting of “Attollimus culignas, pro gloria Bacchi!”, which sounds like it’s been recorded in a road tunnel.

The production is good, but perhaps not as epic as it might have been. While many of the string and bass sounds are very rich, the drums sound thin and undynamic. The powerful acapella vocal that opens “Pos de chanter m'es pres tanlenz” somehow doesn’t cut through as much as it might. The end result is just a touch too muddy.

It’s a bold and very focussed statement that adds only the very slightest touch of modern production to an organic musicality steeped in both the Middle Ages’ primitive side and its religious pomp and circumstance. Limitations in the production budget are the only thing holding “Aes Grave” back from being truly stunning.
Jul 03 2017
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Artist: Drift
Title: Genderland
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Avant Records (@)
To promote a 6-track EP arriving in a few months, “Genderland” is a 1-track short pop single with a slightly blissed-out dub groove, airy vocals, and just a touch of Leftfield-esque harder-edged production. It’s an interesting little teaser, too short to really explore its atmospherics fully and lacking the crucial catchy hook that would propel it into radioland, but as a calling card for a forthcoming EP it shows a lot of promise.
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Artist: Sutcliffe Jugend
Title: Shame
Format: CD
Label: Hagshadow
Rated: *****
When I think about Sutcliffe Jugend of ten years ago, I think about chaotic guitar noise and distorted vocals, while if I think about the ones of the early 80s, I think about feedback and power noise. So, what about their sound of the latest years? Well, lately, their sound changed: they balanced the elements in a different way by using less distortions for the vocals, they combined different noise/sound sources together and they also changed the intensity of their sound on some tracks (check "Seedless" on their 2012 album "Blue Rabbit", for example), just to be able to have a wider palette of possibilities. On their latest album, titled "Shame" and released by Hagshadow, we have five new tracks that confirm the new path taken by Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor. I already listened to the opening track titled "Shame", because they played it on their concert at the latest W.G.T. festival in Leipzig at the beginning of this month and even if on the CD you lose a bit of the tension they create on stage, it sounds good and powerful. This track confirms what I wrote at the beginning of the review, as we have a melodic part played with a distorted bass guitar with the add of more guitar layers which create a fluctuating wave of sound. On this, Kevin is shouting his vocals about the worst human's behaviors, mostly concerning sex. On "Sledge" you can feel the tension but it's not a noise track, it has different layers of treated vocals with a clean one upfront while on the background we have a dissonant hammering of a which I think it could be a treated piano, which rhythmically repeats few notes. On "Hurts" we have noise tides which duet with a clarinet (or it's a feedback which is sounding like that). You don't know what to expect when the next tide it will arrive and this is a more effective way to create tension. "Bait" plays with guitar noise loops while Kevin shouts about survival. The closing track "Blood", is a long dreamy noise tune which is working as decompression room creating a dazing effect. I prefer this latest version of Sutcliffe Jugend, as they keep their sound more open to possibilities and I think that at this point of noise music, it's working better than an "in your face" formula. Well done!
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