Music Reviews



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Artist: Dorota (@)
Title: Frik
Format: 3 x CD (triple CD)
'Frik' is the latest concept album from the experimental Budapest-based trio Dorota and comes as a product of a 4 years long process comprised of 3 albums ('Kisoroszi - Saints and Spaces', 'Miss Favour', 'Nagyoroszi - Bad Nature and Occultism'), 2 films and an interactive website (http://dorotafrik.com/) featuring texts, visual art and images all created by the trio. As an audiovisual whole, 'Frik' seems to be working towards compressing the identity of Dorota but if you temporally 'extract' these 3 albums from their overall project, they would still be working as a rich whole themselves. With dizzying chords to command your instant consideration and flirting with tribal rhythms overlaid with unprocessed strings, 'Kisoroszi - Saints and Spaces' bears noteworthy accents and percussion that seem cropped from ceremonial scenarios while 'Miss Favour' actually brings some melodic lines and piano touches along the way. But don't be fooled, Dorota is still playing so their thick sound still comes peppered with layered distortions, nervous guitar strumming and chilling recorded messages that could inhibit any impulse to dance. At a more insidious pace, 'Nagyoroszi - Bad Nature and Occultism' sometimes moulds into whopping passages disrupted by feverish violin disintegrations and cavernous vocals lingering on the brink of apathy. Overall, 'Frik' articulates a pretty fetching and expensive landscape that constricts and expends at its own will. It's the kind of ambient journey that allows you to plug in with your own inner scenery if only you would allow it. However, it does not come gently or softly on your eardrums as it pairs down soft touches with noise, prancing percussion and sample assaults only to drop a riotous diversity that is difficult to pin down. Or you could label it as being experimental simply because you do not know what else is left to say. All three albums are already available on the band's Bandcamp profile.
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Artist: Ima x Atto Plain (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records
Rated: *****
Ima x Atto Plain is a collaboration of two duos that share one common individual. Ima consists of Nava Dunkelman on percussion and Jeanie-Aprille Tang on electronics and Atto Plain consists of Jeanie-Aprille Tang on electronics and Michael Mersereau on guitar. I was unfamiliar with these projects, but was quite familiar with his work in 15 Degrees Below Zero, which I have enjoyed very much. First off, you have to love a group who has a song title written in Morse Code. We open up with '.- .... . / .-.. . - - . .-. ...' which the Morse Code translator tells me translates to 'ahe letters,' if I have input it correctly. But this is not merely a gimmick; the continual beeps that run over the percussion are reminiscent of Morse Code. Whispered voice, muted trumpet, and chimes / bells become increasingly chaotic, keeping everything interesting. 'Eline' goes for a more expansive and spacey feel, with more bells, drone, and breathy female vocals. This feels almost peaceful after the previous track, with the composition more controlled and purposeful. Very pretty. 'Thin Film' shifts gears once again, with a more sparse, dissonant track that features sheet metal, feedback, and what sounds like distorted harmonica. In the middle, we have some female spoken word mixed in with the noise. 'The Letters' finishes off the disc with clicks, hisses, and metallic whines, as if you were listening to a factory cranking out product. This track was not quite as complex as the others, but still interesting and engaging. Overall, this manages to be all over the map, while maintaining a sense of cohesiveness, which is no small feat. This makes me interested to see what the individual bands sound like, which seems to be a good outcome of any collaboration.
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Artist: Amalgamated (@)
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Aubjects
Amalgamated is a kind of supergroup from the Aubjects / Intangible Cat label, with members of Gushing Cloud (Cory Bengtsen), Homogenized Terrestrials (Phillip Klampe), Headless Ballerinas Underwater (Bob Newell), Dog Hallucination (D. Petri), & Rebekahs' Tape (Cory Bengtsen & Mike Richards). I had previously reviewed releases by Gushing Cloud, Homogenized Terrestrials, and Dog Hallucination and enjoyed them, so the pedigree is good. Let's see if the collaboration is greater than the sum of its parts. The label describes the album this way: 'Strongly informed by 80's industrial / cassette culture artists and creation methods, they mingle the sensibilities of home-tapers with their love for more current electronic artists and technologies. Noisy, dreamy lo-fi psychedelic elements are placed against carefully sculpted hi-fi electronics.' Sounds promising, so let's get into the music. If there is a theme that runs throughout the album, it is mellow with a hint of dissonance. 'Plinth' opens the disc with a nice groove and lots of reverb; this track reminded me of some of the more accessible stuff on Kranky. Not too out there, but a good listen. Some highlight the dissonance, for example, 'No Answer,' with the sampled preacher and vocals that have been completely destroyed before becoming a mellow, straightforward prog rock piece and 'Embryolymbic,' with distortion and analogue warbles. Others highlight the peaceful side, such as 'Gynosome' and 'Unworm Ascending.' Overall, this was an interesting synergy and not really what I expected from these artists. This would appeal to fans of Legendary Pink Dots or Godspeed You! Black Emperor.
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Artist: Homogenized Terrestrials (@)
Title: Shadows Think Twice
Format: CD
Label: Aubjects
Rated: *****
Homogenized Terrestrials is the work of Illinois-based artist Phillip Klampe, who is also in the band Amalgamated. Evidently, he has put out quite a few releases, but this is my first exposure to this artist. The label describes the album as 'cerebral atmospheres and surreal explorations of unrecognized places and events. 16 tracks of strange other worldly sounds allow the listener to shift away from the present into places where both familiar and obtuse details blend together to form the unexpected.' Sounds good, so let's get into the album. This is a collection of spacey soundscapes that all seem to fit together to form a somewhat coherent whole. At times, you hear crackling drone, scraping metal, chimes, and an ethereal choir ('Fire Envelopes') and at other times Klampe gets a bit more gritty with heavily processed voices and sawtooth waves ('Yibdah,' 'Findek Liquifold'). 'Ghoosts' even has an odd sort of beat that reminds me of older Rapoon for some reason. Overall, this was some excellent stuff and very pleasant listening. There is enough variety to keep things interesting, while keeping a sense of continuity throughout. Well worth checking out.
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Artist: Chris Golinski, Tim McNally, Boaz Roberts (@)
Title: Rodeo
Format: CD
Label: Edgetone Records
Rated: *****
"Rodeo" is the work of Chris Golinski (drums), Tim McNalley (bass), and Boaz Roberts (guitar) and consists of five untitled tracks with little information with the disc. The label describes it as 'a study in contrast and extremes, from the visceral to the ephemeral, which resolves to present the listener a seamless flow of five independent yet interrelated works.' For once, the PR copy is accurate. This album flows between moments of incredibly complicated, chaotic improvisation and sparse compositions that are almost too mellow for their own good. Take, for example, the opening track. Imagine the conclusion of a live rock show: wailing guitar, low end drone from the bass, and the drummer going crazy. Now imagine that for several minutes. This was amazing and a lot of fun. The very next track shifts gears immediately. It was almost disarmingly mellow and took forever to fade in. I kept waiting for it to unleash, but it never did. The third track was likewise sparse, getting more complex as it went on. Although they were getting interesting sounds out of their instruments, it didn't really work for me. It was OK, but nothing too amazing. But then were back to the crazy, spastic improve in track 4. The drummer is all over the place and the guitar sounds like he's trying to channel the Emergency Broadcast System, with long tones and a lot of squall. Track 5 closes it on a mellow note. For me this was a mixed bag. When they were on they were really on, and the high energy music is where they excel. However, the other tracks just didn't seem to have the energy of the others. I recognize that energy is not just in your face ' one can have a level of restrained energy in the most sedate tracks, but it just wasn't there for me. Maybe the juxtaposition of extremes was just too much.
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