Music Reviews

Artist: Xordox
Title: Neospection
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Editions Mego
A man of many aliases, JG Thirlwell’s solo release under the Xordox monicker is a purist bit of instrumental synthwave that frequently sounds like a Jean-Michel Jarre album with the lead melodies removed. At times it’s also close to the stereotype of what background sci-fi game music sounds like. It’s purely synthetic, with warm repetitive analogue basslines stepping along while beepy arpeggios, analogue synth power chords and effects flounce melodramatically on top.

The album is spoilt for choice for opening numbers, with “Diamonds”, “Antidote” and “Alto Velocidad” all sounding like epic opening preludes, hinting at a heavy Pendulum-esque hands-in-the-air section that never arrives.

“Corridor” is notable for having the strong lead hook line that most of the other tracks lack, ending up only a remix away from being a hands-in-the-air trance hit. The quirky warbling synth line of “Deep Shelter” is also one of the stronger moments. The other memorable element is the spoken-word manta on “Destination: Infinity” (“destination… destiny… destination… infinity…”) which is so corny that I have to give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s tongue-in-cheek.

While the other tracks all come in roughly around the six minute mark, closing track “Asteroid Belt” is the exception- a nearly fifteen-minute deeper adventure into space and ambience, which starts off boldly start, although by the three minute mark steady bassline patterns begin to emerge and it returns to slightly more business-as-usual, but with an extra degree of measured patience compared to the rest, and an extra willingness to explore unusual tonal changes.

This album walks a well-trodden path, but it does it with a smooth earnestness that makes it an enjoyable listen anyway. Some extra ingredients would need to be added to make it stand out- vocals or samples maybe, or perhaps a slightly grittier edge. As it is, it’s a polished but just slightly forgettable bit of straight-laced synthwave.
Artist: Collide (@)
Title: Color of Nothing
Format: CD + Download
Label: Noiseplus Music (@)
Rated: *****
'Color of Nothing' is Collide's 8th studio album and their first one in six years following 'Counting to Zero' in 2011. That album was a rather downtempo, melancholy affair that although well-executed, largely lacked the fire that they exhibited on 'Two Headed Monster' from 2008. There's fire aplenty though in 'Color of Nothing' and it begins with the aptly titled "Wake Up". If Collide's fans thought they had lost some of their industrial edge previously, I can tell you that it's back in full force now. The harder edge here is provided by the guitars of Kevin Kipnis (Purr Machine) and Scott Landes. Statik is still handling programming (electronics, percussion) and kaRIN has never sounded more seductively witchy. Something about the ways her voice was recorded on this album is really different. She is still immediately recognizable but there are places where her vocals are elusive as smoke. Statik incorporates a lot of melodic/rhythmic industrial loops on this album, perhaps more than he's ever used before. Where Collide had once flirted with taking over the mantle of the 90's band Curve (ie; The Secret Meeting - 'Ultrashiver') here on 'Color of Nothing' they do so forcefully and unapologetically. They even invited Dean Garcia back again to play bass on a track ("Fix"). This is a bigger, bolder and heavier album than they've ever done before. Although there's no definitive unified concept here, this is one of those albums that plays best as a whole rather than trying to pick some hit song, of which there isn't really one here. They're all good. Even though it took me a while to really get into 'Color of Nothing' it was worth it, and I think Collide's fans will think so too. It's an album that could only have been put out by a goth-industrial outfit of the calibre of Collide, and was worth the wait. I can only hope they'll feel like touring it.
Artist: Vipcancro (@)
Title: Uno
Format: CD
Label: Lisca Records (@)
The Italian group Vipcancro is comprised of Andrea Borghi - bass; Filippo Ciavoli Cortelli - percussion, tapes; Alberto Picchi - electronics; and Nicola Quiriconi - voice, metal. From what I can tell they've been active since 2008 and have about six or seven releases prior to this one. I've never heard, no heard of them before so this is new to me. 'UNO' was recording between 2015 and 2016 in Venice during the 56th Biennale of International Art and in Pietrasanta at Molize Studio. The best way to describe this in non-music, or maybe even anti-music. I really don't know what the concept is behind this work, but maybe it's an attempt to glorify the mundane. 'UNO' is comprised of two lengthy, and one not so lengthy pieces - "U," "N," and "O," for there is no other reference on the grommeted CD slipcase. Much of the sound generated by this group seems to be field recordings. The first track opens with the chatter of a crowd that goes on for a few minutes and is gradually replaced by a low buzzing hum-drone. Other sounds that emerge seem to indicate some sort of pseudo-mechanical activity, perhaps a cleaning crew or something. There are a few different types of sustained and then oscillated feedback, and perhaps intermittent vacuuming sounds. The undercurrent is all deep drone, nearly subliminal. Other sounds emerge such as scrapes, squeaks and squeals. Minor, subtle electronics are also employed here, and there is a background of ambient conversational voices, content indistinguishable. There's 11:14 of that. The next piece (we'll call it "N") has a discreet low hum running throughout, as if it was recorded on a cheap tape recorder in a closed environment. There are sounds of activity- perhaps small tools and devices wielded manually, perhaps crafting something? The audible low drone-hum occasionally becomes more prominent, but yet distanced as if it emanates from another area. Harmonics emerge in the drone with an unconscious musicality. Voices of little children can be heard in the distance. It almost sounds as if someone is constructing something in their basement! This drone-hum modulates over the course of time as the electronic filters open up. I suppose the theme of this piece could be 'discreet musique concrete workshop' as the foley sounds ought to spark the listener's imagination. (At one point it sounds like someone sorting through a junk bin.) This piece lasts for 12:01. Final track "O" is only 6:20 long. It begins with a muffled, off-kilter, submerged thudding rhythmic loop, and once again, children's voices in the background. The sounds of manual industry are once again present- tapping, clinking, clanking, thrumming...a whole panoply of onomatopoeiac expressions. Now we here something resembling a small engine, and perhaps some droning machine noises associated with it. I'm getting the impression someone is trying to fix something. It all ends with a brief muffled howl. This whole thing took less than 30 minutes. The first time I heard 'UNO' my immediate impression was "what the fuck???" Are these people just messing around with stuff they found in a cellar? Who would ever listen to this? Garbage! Utter rubbish! Then, after a couple more listens I began to find it intriguing in a strange way. This is the music of our lives in a certain respect, and although atonal and arrhythmic has a quality to it which defines us as humans. It is true industrial, and does not purport to be anything else but. There is no glamour, no cleverness, no message, no emotion conveyed here, just pure industry. To that end, it succeeds. I don't think you're going to find any hidden meaning in it or great intellectual concept about it. It's just the sounds of activity combined with electronic drones. If that seems interesting to you, well, here you go.

Artist: Zbeen
Title: Tonal Whiplash
Format: CD
Label: 13 (@)
Rated: *****
The return of the project of Ennio Mazzon and Gianluca Favaron is marked by an absence of reference on the label and the artist sites so it's something that has to be deciphered entirely by the listener. Wrapped in a cover art of other times where material and a certain craft was required is based upon cyrillic character and pictures from women's fashion magazine. It could be seen as a rather cryptic homage to certain avant-garde movement of last century which had a relation to society rather than only a concern for form.
As "Rest Energy" starts, it's clear how little is changed in the modus operandi of the duo as the sound generated by Favaron and processed by Mazzon are developed in structures where's it's the movement of the sound elements the focus of this release, so it's seems complex but are few sounds placed in different sound fields. "Marciulionis' Tash" is based upon fast noises and long tones. "Tea Cube" assembles quiet drones at the threshold of audibility, noises and tones in an attempt to demonstrate how listening is a search for perception rather than a dull contemplation. "Materia Prima" plays with the point where the sounds came from. "Decalcomania" use the same process to dynamics. "Seitan Core" is a relation between quiet and fast sound in the background and slow and loud in the foreground. "Sopa Coada" closes this the release with a noisy track whose central part seems also static in his quiet development escaping a sound wall.
This release even if difficult for ears used to derivative works based on trends has everything lacking in the average release: conciseness, dynamics, space. It's something like a return to the future.
Artist: Rapoon (@)
Title: My Life as a Ghost
Format: 2 x CD (double CD)
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
After "Rhiz", Zoharum reissues "My Life as a Ghost" which is a release based on the same principle but, instead of IDM, it's based upon hip-hop rhythmic structure and this mark a basic difference as, instead of being centered upon the beats, the samples are used to divert the attention from the beat.
So, the voice which starts "Adrift" marks the first part of the track while the second one uses drones and noises. "The Sky Was Blue" is an evocative soundscape based on loops. "Neyyatt" is a partial return to the territories of "Rhiz". With "Terrain Sounds" emerges the primary flaw of this release, as the beat fundamentally never change and the tracks are long it's neither hypnotic nor interesting; a static rhythm needs a wide musical movement, as in "Adrift" to be effective, and only in the final two minutes of the track this is achived. This lack marks the central part of this release with only the last two track "I Think I Was Happy", with his static foreground and his crescendo, and "Tell Charlene", with a clever use of samples, to try to raise the score of this release.
Usually the bonus cd is something avoidable but used to persuade collectors with the mirage of something unreleased, but this bonus cd is something different. As Robin Storey has constructed new tracks from the original tapes with new material, he has corrected the flaws of the original release so
"Vertical Moonlight" seems based upon one of the layer of "Terrain Sounds" buried in the mix and this time with a quiet first part, an hypnotic second one and the return of the beat of "Adrift" in the final part, the result is impressive. "Not Knowing" is basically a remix of "Adrift" with a more developed sound spectrum and more sound movement. "Tremors" is a remix of "Terrain Sounds" but this time the rhythmic structure is in the background so it sounds as a completely different track as the atmosphere is more present instead to be a sort of musical wallpaper. "What's Been Happening?" is the same process applied to "Tell Charlene". "In Marakkesh" takes elements from "A Strange Land" and " BIG land IN" but they are almost unrecognizable as they are blended with new material in what is perhaps the best track of this release. "Terminus Gris" reworks a fistful of samples in a short coda relinking to the industrial elements of the project.
While the original release is something only for collectors, the bonus cd is something really enjoyable and it's not so far away from the best material of this project as it could seem. Almost recommended.
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