Music Reviews



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Artist: Koji Maruyama
Title: comune
Format: Download Only (MP3 only)
Label: Mimi (@)
Distributor: Archive.org
Though Comune is woefully short, it stands up to multiple listens and fills this listener with childhood storybook wonderment. “Op.344” is a lot like Keith Jarret's early work, paradoxically sparse and full, assertive, a magic tune. With its cheery wind instrument opening melody, “Uzume” follows it with cascading piano that practically pans a wondrous anime landscape that would do Hayao Miyazaki proud. A minute-long song, it is a well-crafted, compact diamond at that. “Aoi Hasu” opens with slow rhythmic piano that slowly gains momentum as the song progresses, a train departing a station, then picking up speed as additional piano melodies are joined by strings, chimes and wind instruments that inspire visions of pastoral landscapes. A billowing, dreamy wistfulness with a melancholic lining wafts over the track like smoke from a locomotive. “Venice” is a live recording and no less beautiful, and evokes the music of Joe Hisaishi's piano music, but taps into more complicated, intangible moods rather than just the drama of an anime soundtrack. Playful, mellifluous, wistfully melancholic with fleeting moments of joy and yearning, Koji Maruyama's Comune is one of the gems in the trove of Archive.org.
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Artist: Magnetica Ars Lab / DK 5600
Title: Final Muzik CD-Singles Club 10
Format: MCD (Mini CD)
Label: Final Muzik
Recently I received this split MCD with Magnetica Ars Lab, project headed by Arnaldo Pontis, and DK5600, duo coming from Trieste (so both Italians). It is a limited item which is part of the Final Muzik's CD Singles Club. Let's start with Magnetica Ars Lab, who with "Ground Control" are really walking on a dangerous area, because making a sort of Bowie's cover without trying to make one it's a really difficult target. In this case, I'm sorry to say that while I appreciate the cold ambient background atmosphere created, I didn't like the vocals at all, because there's the attempt to follow a little the original melody without doing it and this is the tricky part: or you're really good at it, or you don't do it, because doing that, the people will compare this version with the original. In my humble opinion it would have been much better a reading or a filtered voice not attempting to do any melody at all or a different melody with also a different metric. About DK5600, you read about them here some time ago when I reviewed their debut album "Distanza Katrias 5600". They are here with two tracks: "Punto Zero" and "Uscire Dallo Spazio Curvo". The first one is a cosmic pulsating track which brings you on board of a lost spaceship. There, you hear a voice which seems to come from the central computer. The effect is really good and the long melodic drones and the bleepy effects are really good too. On the second track, we have the same kind of processed vocals with the add of an anxious breathing with a great synth glacial ambient background. The sound is really sharp and detailed. Two really nice tracks.
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Artist: Edit Select (@)
Title: Points Of Contact EP
Format: 12"
Label: Substrato (@)
Rated: *****
Despite its relatively short presence in the market, Italian label Substrato is already breaching the rockiest hearts of lovers of the genre. Even if Italian media are depicting mountains as terrible and nefarious places due to the earthquakes, large snow avalanches and harsh climatic events that are severely hitting central Italy, mountains are somehow magical places, and Substrato's concept got mostly based on the emphasis of its mysterious majesty and the rejuvenating power of its rocks. The fourth output by the label has the signature of a known name of the scene, the one by British producer Tony Scott, mostly known as Edit Select, his more famous moniker. His mastery in forging techno tunes, coming from many years of experience in the field (he's active since the 90ies), perfectly matches the stylistic path that Substrato is trying to trace, where the combination of the more "acoustic" sonorities of techno and deeper pulsations is aimed to render the meeting of subterranean and surfacing hard rocks of upland regions. Tony reached this goal by means of only three tracks: all of them features punching muffled beats and subtle electronic buzzing, but he adds more gurgling sonorities on "Faction 1" and harsher ones on the synth-driven serpentine of "Tangent" (close to some hybrids of chilling minimal techno and Detroit sound) before reaching the almost ethereal thin air of the deeply atmospheric "Faction 1.1", the highest peak of the whole release. Check it out.
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Artist: Chris Abrahams
Title: Climb
Format: CD
Label: Vegetable Records
Rated: *****
This new ring in the chain of solo releases by New-Zealander, but notoriously Sidney-based, pianist and composer Chris Abrahams (mostly known for being one-third of the Australian cult band The Necks, even if he's active in many likewise exciting projects), collects a series of piano-driven studio recordings, supposedly composed or somehow blurted out during personal solo studio improvisations. From the exquisitely technical viewpoint, what impressed my ear is the way by which Chris performs a series of legato and staccato touches within gradually rising runs, a performative strategy that he manages to render using amazing tricks (subtle and sometimes instantaneous changes of scale as well!), even if he keeps on orbiting on the same tones, in tracks like the opening "Roller", the final "Shoreline" (the four compressed tone-made chords spurting out of the central movement are one of the more uprising moment of the whole album) or the lovely "The Sleepings and the Drifts". Likewise fantastic the assay of the so-called vertical phrasing technique in the self-describing track "Overlap", where slight variations of the pressure on the sustain pedal amalgamates tones to the point they get almost indistinguishable and homogenous, as well as the angular imploding of the convoluted phrases in "Fern Scapes" and the feverish rising tension of the lovely "Beach of Black Stones". The movement of "Dog Rose" sounds more predictable, but its almost soothing melody renders the idea summarized by the title - dog roses are Australian flowers that are widely suggested by naturopathic practitioners as a remedy against insomnia, paranoia, fear, and anxiety -. "Climb" sounds like an excellent musical restorative more than a pure pianistic exercise.
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Artist: Monopol
Title: Weltweit
Format: LP
Label: Medical Records
Fans of synthwave and attempts to recreate those halcyon synthesizer days of the early 80’s must lap this up- a genuine and forgotten 1982 LP, the sole album by Monopol. This is the real deal- synthesizer pop music, close to the cutting edge for its time, revelling in the synth sounds and phrases that so many producers now try to recreate. Motorik drum rhythms, warm analogue basslines and whistling lead lines are a classic combination but this is a really good example of its kind.

Predictably Kraftwerk and Klaus Schulze are cited as influences on the press release, but the German-language pop sensibility is arguably more MOR than that, with melodies and structures more reminiscent of bands like OMD, Propaganda, and very early Depeche Mode. The mixture of male and female lead vocals keeps things interesting and each track is a radio-friendly length, with only one track, the slightly more indulgent "Weisses Haus", passing the four-minute mark.

From my UK point of view, if Monopol had had a single strongly-hooked English-language radio hit, or managed to get Trevor Horn's attention, I'm sure they would be a great deal more remembered than they are now. The standout tracks include “TV”, the almost prototype acid house tones of “Elektrischer Stuhl”, and “City-Nacht” which is just crying out to be used on a soundtrack. The track “Gib Liebe Her”, the only track issued as a 7” single originally, is strangely ‘oompah’ and borderline cliché, an unrepresentative choice as a single.

A mint copy of the original LP will set you back the best part of €100 but it’s now been remastered and reissued on vinyl by Medical Records. Seemingly it's still vinyl-only and limited edition, a bold but faithful move, but one which might unnecessarily limit its audience which is a shame as this LP is definitely ripe for a revival.
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