Music Reviews

Artist: Peter Kirn
Title: Bellona, USA
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Establishment
The Establishment label’s head honcho Peter Kirn’s second album is a musical interpretation of the fictional city of Bellona, inspired by the post-apocalyptic sci-fi “Dhalgren” by Samuel Delany. Like a soundtrack to a movie that appears to exist only inside Kirn’s head, it’s a collection of moody, slowly evolving instrumental techno and electronica with a variety of tones.

Tracks like “Prism Mirror Lens” are a complex techno made up of lightweight and semi-complex drum programming and long, evolving pads and atmospheres. “This Circle In All”, by comparison, is a harder and more straightforward affair with a touch of acid, while “The Ax” is an earnest exploration of a slightly industrial-sounding polyrhythm stretched out to mesmeric length.

“Stripped Skies” is a brighter affair with a very 90’s flavour and some clever constantly-rising bleep tones. “Vicious Looking Thing” isn’t quite so smart and perhaps represents the point at which the release begins to run out of steam. “Creatures Of Light And Darkness” has a curious, eerie, faintly prog rock intro, but loops around to more 4/4 kick and harsh hi-hats which don’t live up to the promise of that introduction.

“Prelude”, “Interlude” and “Postlude” are a trio of lush and cinematic beatless sonic blanket that could feasibly have been explored further into a dark ambient album in their own right.

This release will be going on tour with an “all new AV show” in 2018, and if the visuals are as rich as the sounds, it should be very interesting to catch- so long as the visuals add extra variety which the sounds do fall just marginally short on.
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Artist: Michael Bonaventure
Title: Works 2008 - 2017
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Unexplained Sounds Group (@)
Rated: *****
Quite an obscure figure in today's music scene, Michael Bonaventure is introduced by the words by Raffaele Pezzella, the curator of the label, which express all the reverence for his works. This is a collection of works perhaps intended as an introduction or an anthology that portrays a composer trying to create avant-garde from the organ, the liturgy's instrument i.e., one of the most traditional still used.
The starting point of "Interlude VI" is based on a dual structure: the first is a classical one based on a melody while the other is a loop and the two parts are repeated in a sequence until a second melody based on drone is used instead of the first to introduce a variation and the reprise of the initial sequence is used to end the track. "Celestial Objects" is instead based on pulsating sounds and vocal processing to reenact the sense of old sci-fi movies based on space and other civilizations while "Sanctuary" start from the same sounds but exploring the high frequency resonances to obtain a spectral crescendo. "Doxology" develops drones from vocal lines using a layer of organ to obtain a link with the tradition and "Interlude" uses almost the same structure with the organ. "Dead Electronics" marks a partial departure with this quiet sound fields using some noises to obtain a vague sense of apprehension. "Carillon II" uses piano chords to create a link to tradition and a certain musical movement while in the background long tones create a static canvas as The vocal manipulations of "Encounters" are used to obtain a movement while the organ marks the rhythmic structure with simple lines played in loop. While the first part of "Terrestrial Ode" is static, the second part is marked by ticking of a clock that underline the sonic manipulation of short samples. "Carillon I" is a variation of "Carillon II" with a smaller role of the piano and a more elaborate electronic part. The large masses of drones generated by the organ of "Darenth II" is doubled by quiet parts where the listener has to catch sounds rather than be overwhelmed.
Not exactly that kind of music that fill in a trend, this album requires a listener which hasn't done a choosing of a battlefield between modernity and tradition as it's tied to both sides; someone would call it a barricade while another an equilibrium. It's worth a listen with care.
Artist: The Cascades (@)
Title: Diamonds & Rust
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
If you're from America it is likely that you've never heard or heard of The Cascades. Das ist eine Schande because you've been missing out on a great German Goth band...with a capital "G". The Cascades were formed in 1988 but didn't put out their first album until over a decade later in 2001. I first heard about them a little while back when I reviewed M.W. Wild's 'Third Decade' (solo) album here. Wild was (and now is again) the lead vocalist of The Cascades. At the time of the review I searched out some music by The Cascades (whatever I could find on YouTube) and said I wasn't overly impressed by them. Well, I don't remember what I listened to but it wasn't what's on this magnificent 28-track double CD. This is some of the finest Goth I've heard, period! 'Diamonds & Rust' is both a career retrospective and prospective of the best of the band's output from way back when until the present now. There are early demos, best cuts from the official albums, and also some brand spankin' new material. The Cascades band lineup now is: M. W. Wild- lead vocals; Morientes da Silva - Guitars; Markus Müller - Keyboards / Programming. Supplemental musicians are Tommy Dietweger - Drums, and Esther Widmann - Backing Vocals. (Of course there are a good number of musicians passed through the band over the years who are somewhere on some of the tracks of these CDs but I'm not naming them all.) Of the two CDs 'Diamonds' seems to be the more potent one as it consists mainly of the newer material. 'Rust' find the band at its beginnings but is still quite interesting to hear how they sounded and evolved in their early days. On a good chunk of the material The Cascades sound a lot like Sisters of Mercy due to Wild's vocal similarity to Andy Eldritch and Morientes' muscular guitar. The earlier material is less Sister-like because it's kind of obvious the boys were experimenting, and that's actually a positive thing. I think they were still searching for their identity which incorporated some electro elements, as well as influences from bands such as Fields of the Nephilim, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, and other similar goth luminaries of the '80s and '90s. During the period when Wild left the band (ostensibly to pursue a solo career) he was replaced with vocalist Ben Richter (2007-2010) and you can hear him on one track - "Everyday". Truth be told it's the weakest cut on both albums as he sounds a poor substitute for Mr. Wild in a lackluster performance. (Kind of reminds me when Rozz left Christian Death.) First of the new tracks (on the 'Diamonds' CD) is "Wenn Der Regen Kommt" ("When the Rain Comes") obviously in German, and the other "Phase" (Demo) is in English. Both are enhanced by the backing vocals of Esther Widmann. (Oddly enough in my review of Wild's solo album I mentioned that he could have benefited from a female backing vocalist on the order of Patricia Morrison...hmmm, possibly advice taken?) Both songs are very good in different ways, although I prefer "Phase" not just because the vocals are in English, but because there's a tinge of Bowie in it. This album won't be officially released until November 11, and if I were you I'd be counting down the days until its available. It is ever so worthy.
Artist: Darshan Ambient (@)
Title: Lingering Day: Anatomy of a Daydream
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****

'Lingering Day: Anatomy of a Daydream' is the tenth album on the Spotted Peccary label by Darshan Ambient (with over a dozen additional releases elswhere), the project name of California musician/composer Michael Allison. Of course, this is the first Darshan Ambient release I've experienced. Allison's background includes stints back in the '80s with Nona Hendryx's Zero Cool band, China Shop, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, and his own band, Empty House. (Kind of sounded like a prog-rock version of the Police mixed with Thomas Dolby.) Funny how such fiery beginnings mellows into chillout ambient as the years go by. To be perfectly honest, I really didn't care too much for 'Lingering Day' the first couple of times I heard it. It came across as New Agey, pretty but lacking substance. There is one track ("Silver") that conjured images of cartoon lambs frolicking in cartoon fields perhaps as a commercial for fabric softener. On the other hand the album is extremely well-played, orchestrated, recorded and produced, all by Allison himself. With further listening I find that only the first couple of numbers fit in that typical New Age mold. That's mainly due to the simple piano-based meodies and themes. Third track, "Arc of Angels" sounds like something from an Anthony Phillips (first guitarist of progressive rock band Genesis), the only track on the album with vocals. It's a bit like a prog-rocker turning pastoral. And yes, there drums on it. Once beyond these early tracks things do get better though, albeit slowly. There is still (highly stylized) simplistic melodic content, but it gives way to a more ambient feel. The rhythm track on "Mover" (as repetitious as it is) supports rather than detracts from this bouncy, shifting melambient piece. Further along there are more sustained ambiences, some with melodies and others not so much. One of my favorites was "The Lost Hunter," is a piece with just the right amounts of melody, rhythm and proggy but languid guitar. What is remarkable about the album is its variety, in which numerous moods, motifs, and settings are explored. One minute you're floating in airy cumulus space with "Hand in the Clouds," the next you're earthbound, bopping along in some foreign market "Kissing Crust". So there is ambient, and melambient here, like the softer side of prog-rock which for many, might not be a bad thing at all. The final track, and title track "Lingering Day" is completely ambient in its deliciously droney soundscape. Good way to end it. 'Lingering Day' has a lot to offer once you get past the first couple of stereotypical New Age tracks as it unfolds into something quite marvelous.
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Artist: Metatron Omega (@)
Title: Illuminatio
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
As its previous release, Metatron Omega confirms his religious inspiration with a release based on the concept of illumination obtained with meditation in a solitary environment. This depiction is mostly obtained with a massive use of echoes and reverbs to obtain a sound of great space and based on resonances similar to those that could be heard in a really large cathedral.
The echoes of Gregorian chants in "Ecclesia Universalis" open this release introducing the listener into an environment which is as abstract as culturally signified that is interrupted for a second part based on small sonic nuances. "Heosphoros" is always at the crossroad between a crescendo and a static track while "Illuminatio" is almost a proper crescendo, or, more properly, is a slow layering of sound lines, which abruptly ends for a finale of grave meditation. "Thy Light" and "Mysteriis De Sanguine" oscillate between echoes of voices and evocative samples. The deep sounscape of "Sacrum Noctis" with really bass frequency is illuminated by the bright high pitched drone and "Chalice of Eternity" closes this release with a quiet and religious environment generated with evocative sound lines.
While it could be a little boring for listeners of other genres, as it's based on a couple of great ideas scattered in a release lasting over an hour, it would be a sure pick for those who cares for evocative and crafted soundscapes. A nice release.
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