Music Reviews

Artist: Aidan Casserly
Title: Black Eyes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: House Of Analogue
Rated: *****
Aidan Casserly is always on the move and just after releasing his newest album as Empire State Human, he's already releasing a mini album of Dead Or Alive re-interpretations. For "Black Eyeas", he picked up five songs, all coming from albums and not as famous as other ones released as singles and re-imagined them acustically. Three out of five ("Then There Was You", "Special Star" and "Come Inside") are coming from "Mad, Bad And Dangerous To Know". The original ones have an Euro pop flavor (even more commercial than their most successfull album "Youthquake"), with a bit of orchestration while Aidan versions strip them to the bone and slow them down. Piano, sax, a bit of strings and an intimate atmosphere give to them a new light. "Far Too Hard", from their first album "Sophisticated Boom Boom" already had an orchestral opening and a bit of French dramatic touch, so it was just ready for such treatment. Aidan pushed harder the "drama" pedal and gave a really nice performance (maybe the best of the lot). "My Forbidden Lover" was the closing track of the 1989 album "Nude" and was a dance pop track and in the new version is sounding heartbreaking and with a nice distorted guitar on the backgroud that help building the atmosphere. Nice EP not only for Dead Or Alive fans.
Artist: Bushman's Revenge
Title: Et Hån Mot Overklassen
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Hubro
In attempting to represent “A Mocking Overclass” or “A Mockery Of The Upper Class” (two alternative translations which in a way mean quite different things), Norwegian multi-instrumentalist trio Bushman’s Revenge offer up a broad palette of instrumental music that spans prog rock, experimental jazz, and to a slightly lesser extent, contemporary experimental and electronics as well. It comprises ten quite distinct pieces, that showcase the trio in more conventional drums-bass-guitar arrangements but also leave room for plenty of the more esoteric noises and found sounds- and even the odd dash of Wurlitzer.

Of the above labels, prog rock is the closest fit. Tracks like “Happy Hour For Mr. Sanders” are energetic prog to the core, it oozes the indulgences of the 1970’s in both its virtuosity and its skittish groove, while “A Bottle A Day keeps The Wolves At Bay” is a prime example of the more tripped-out and meandering swagger of the genre. “Toten” could stand its ground if squeezed onto a Pink Floyd or King Crimson album, “Hei Hei Martin Skei” ticks the obligatory ‘very long track’ boxes at 14 minutes of relaxed melodic and more jazzy noodling, while “Greetings To Gisle” brings the drums to the fore initially before, two minutes in, breaking out into a very coherent funk groove.

A greater breadth is on show though in tracks like “The Curious Case Of The Resting Blue Steel Face”, a rhythmless ambient drone layering that’s more relaxed yet also more than a little bit sinister. Despite its title “Ladies Night At The Jazz Fusion Disco” is similar too, not even remotely disco and only jazz in the most extremely broad sense, but with sitar-like drone noises that give a more Eastern-sounding flavour.

At times the anti-upper class theme is hard to spot, but- perhaps unintentionally- opening track “Sly Love With A Midnight Creeper” does sound like lift music from a very posh hotel, but with seedy undertones.

It’s another strong and fresh-sounding update of arguably old genres from the reliable Hubro label, and while I don’t think the upper class will be trembling in their boots or sobbing into their champagne as a consequence, it can still be considered a musical success.
Artist: Ensemble Neon
Title: Niblock/Lamb
Format: CD + Download
Label: Hubro
“Niblock/Lamb” is the rather prosaic name for Ensemble Neon’s performance of “To Two Tea Roses” by Phill Niblock and “Parallaxis Forms” by Catherine Lamb. The two twenty-something-ish-minute ensemble drone pieces, both composed within the last decade, make excellent companions, displaying patterns of similarities and contrasts that make it a rewarding two-chapter listening experience.

“To Two Tea Roses” is relentlessly steady, a plateau magically generated from a large number of ebbing and flowing parts that manage to almost cancel one another out indefinitely, with no beginning or end yet somehow the feeling of progression that you can’t put your finger on, a progression that manages to prevent something so flat from being tiring.

“Parallaxis Forms” has the same broad timbre, but is far emptier. Individual drawn-out elements, most strikingly vocal sounds but also strings, suddenly find themselves in solo or very thinly layered environments where their separate textures can be more easily discerned. Melodic change is introduced, deliberate beginnings and ends of pitched notes with such length and sustain that the performance requires both athleticism and finesse, which Ensemble Neon clearly have in abundance. Calming, bordering on romantic, it feels like quite an indulgent experience.

A beautiful and intriguing pair of supremely slow works with a velvet touch.
Artist: HIN (@)
Title: Warmer Weather (EP)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
Once again we delve into another offering from the small custom label, Sound in Silence Records, and a new project called HIN, which is comprised of London UK based artist Jerome Alexander (his main project being the ambient/folktronica Message To Bears) and transatlantic partner from Los Angeles, Justin Lee Radford (his current project being The Kids And The Cosmos). Jerome has had several previous releases both under his MTB moniker and his own name, while Justin has cultivated extensive collaborations with film makers, environmentalists, astronauts, activists, scientists and social activists, composing music for films, VR, commercials, art installations, and theatre. Apparently these two were school chums back in the day, and likely social media renewed their acquaintance.

'Warmer Weather' consists of five tracks between 2:24 and 5:48 in length and clocking in at about 20 minutes. When it comes right down to it, the SIS one-sheet provides a better description of the music on 'Warmer Weather' than what I could have dreamed up- "HIN's debut deals with feelings of isolation, environmentalism and friendship, and is a perfect mix of dreamy electronica, elegant dream pop and soothing ambient. Utilizing wistful guitars, warm pads, hazy synths, enchanting electric piano melodies, deep bass lines, gentle male and childlike female vocals, intricate beats and glitchy electronics, HIN create an EP full of emotive textures and sublime soundscapes." Yep, that pretty much sums it up. The music is very engaging in such an innocent, naive way, with no agenda or attempt to pull you in a particular direction. It's a pop-ambient hybrid that succumbs to neither convention nor experimentalism. Perfect but not flawless, sweet without being saccharine, ambitious but not epic, and esoteric yet accessible, this is the way 'Warmer Weather' comes across. If I had to describe it succinctly though, I'd call it mini-marvelous. For that certain void in your listening experience when it seems like nothing in particular will do, try 'Warmer Weather'. I think it will hit the spot. As usual with Sound in Silence releases, this is a limited (to 300), numbered edition in a hand-stamped cardboard envelope with a color image printed on polaroid style photo paper. (Also give you a download code.) Otherwise available as a digital download.
Artist: Johnathan|Christian (@)
Title: Dark Hallways
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Here is a review that is somewhat overdue (the album having been released in May) but that's what happens here when you only release your work in digital download format only, at least in my world; it takes a back seat to physical product I get sent. In this digital age anyone can put nearly anything easily on the web, and I'm of the (old school) belief that if you've got a worthy product you really care about and believe in , you will make it available physically as well as digitally. I know, I know, it's expensive to do that but there are plenty of independent artists (likely just poor as you) who are putting out physical product one way or another, so just deal with it. Anyway, enough of that.

'Dark Hallways' is Johnathan|Christian's third (full length) release after 'The Nothing I Feel' from 2015 which I reviewed here. The group is Johnathan Mooney (synths, keys, composition) from the U.S., and Christian Granquist (Vocals, lyrics) from Stockholm, Sweden, with the addition of Tiger Koehn (percussive battery). To a certain extent this new album is more polished, consistent and homogenous than their previous works, but that doesn't necessarily guarantee a better result. The opener, "Deeper" is supposed to be a mood setter, paving the way for an introspective excursion, and although it does set one, it's a rather dour and depressing trip. Christian's gruffer than Peter Murphy vocals are well suited for this kind of thing, but the angst can only be stretched so far before it becomes tedious. "Car Crash Romance" should have been a nice angry kicker but it tends to wallow in self despair more than anything else. As nicely orchestrated as title track "Dark Hallways" is, it comes off as morosely blasé. The next couple of tracks seem equally prosaic. Then there is a cover of that old Kate Bush chestnut, "Running Up That Hill," a chance for redemption squandered in an overblown orchestration of the original, with little to add (the children's voices at the beginning don't count), and no nuance to speak of. Half the album gone, and this was not going so well.

I was just about ready to throw in the towel when "One Last Night" picked up the pace and revived my interest. FINALLY, a song with some oomph, a decent hook and panache. Gimme more! The followup, "Built" is pretty cool too, vocally reminiscent of PM's side-project, Dali's Car. Next up we have another cover, this time Pink Floyd/Roger Waters' "Nobody Home" from 'The Wall' album. To me, an odd choice for a cover. 'The Wall' is one of my least favorite PF albums, but there are tons of people out there who love it. This is a much better than average cover of the song, and Christian is equally as expressive as Waters on it, maybe even moreso, so in that sense, it's a winner. The last three tracks are remixes of a couple of previous songs on the album- "Car Crash Romance" (LeaetherStrip, Electropoint) and "Clearer" (Joe Letz of Combichrist). Usually I'm not a big fan of remixes, but in this case Claus Larsen makes "Car Crash Romance" a super-psychodrama dancefloor driver. "Clearer" (Letz Be Friends Mix) is a rather bodacious take on the original than not only serves as good club fodder but makes its mark with a highly adventurous and interesting arrangement. The Electric Auto Mix of "Car Crash Romance" sets it to a 4-onthe-floor beat but adds in a variety of effective electro elements that kick it over the top.

As you can tell, I didn’t care much for the first half of the album, but the second half has a lot going for it. I think it could have been boiled down to a really good EP. Available lots of places, so you should check it out for yourself.

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