Music Reviews



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Artist: Halo Manash (@)
Title: Elemental Live Forms MMV - Initiation
Format: CD + Book
Label: Aural Hypnox (@)
Rated: *****
This recent output by Finnish experimental ritual-oriented Finnish label, focusing on the releases of the Helixes collective, has a relevant historical significance for the followers of their trail and the more obscure (or I'd rather say, esoteric) dark-ritual sonorities, as it includes nine previously unreleased movements by Halo Manash - one of the most famous name on their roster - that were performed during the very first live ritual at Syntesia on Joly 8th 2005 in Tampere, which could be reasonably considered a proper initiation, as the title says. The release is, as usual, maniacally packaged: the 444 copies of regular CD edition are enclosed in an oversized screen printed cardboard covers including a 4-panel booklet, 4-panel xerox-insert and eight two-sided insert cards within a stamped envelope and a similar format got chosen fot the 70 copies of the tape edition, while the 45 copies of the boxset (including both the CD and the tape) also includes a screen printed 30 x 30 cm canvas and four two-sided inserts from the preparation sessions held in Temple Hwaar. In my hands, I have the regular CD edition, and I have to say that its package perfectly enhances the sensation you're handling something really precious, rare and somehow mysterious. According to the introductory words by the label, that live ritual focused "on the boundless elemental form returning from metaphysical pilgrimage", bridging the "worlds of being and non-being" and the three group of three movements by which they subdivided the nine movements of this recording - in details "The Trail of Bones" (from movement I to III), "The Path of Fire (IV-VI) and "The Ghost Ceremony" (VII-IX) - mirrors the world of "re-birth, initiation and primal thundering" respectively. Some listeners could feel detached by this esoteric and mystic dimension of some aural experimentalists, but the evocative power of Halo Manash's music (even at this early stage of their research) can hardly be denied by this kind of listener, particularly in some moments of this "initiation" such as the third movement of The Trail of Bones, where they intersected the nocturnal whispers of the second one, the sonic "lacerations" of the first one and some entrancing tribal percussive hits, the subtle thunderous roaring of the fifth movement (really entrancing!) and the shamanic halo of the final tripartite set "The Ghost Ceremony".
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Artist: Sult / Lasse Marhaug
Title: Harpoon
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Conrad Sound / Pica Disk
Acoustic improvisers Sult are a three-piece taking guitars, percussion instruments and contrabass and abusing and misusing them in a visceral chaos of tortured scrapes, crashes, wood being stretched, and metallic awkwardness. It’s as though their mission is to make the most unpleasant recorded noises possible from traditional instruments. This is a wall of difficult, unpleasant noise abstraction which at times is akin to fingernails running down a blackboard. Extreme stereo separation at times allows you to listen to two independent pains at the same time.

Sound artist Lasse Marhaug collaborates with them on “Harpoon”. Underneath the agonising squeals, only half audible, are drones and other found sound hits, but it’s difficult to ascertain where the crossover of responsibility lies. Regardless, Marhaug’s presence is certainly not a tempering one.

Two equal-length halves, “First” and “Second”, change and shift over time but without any clear sense of identity or progression. The result is a 35-minute affront, one of the most uncomfortable and unwelcoming pieces of audio you’re able to deliberately buy on a record label. And while ChainDLK revels in the avantgarde and the dark noise-battles where sound and art argue loudly, this release is perhaps a stretch too far. One for the audio-masochists.
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Artist: Klute
Title: Read Between The Lines
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Commercial Suicide (@)
Rated: *****
There are many evergreen producers in the international drum'n'bass scene that manages to resist to the seasonality of fashion victims and more or less force-fed trends, and Tom Withers, better known as Klute, undoubtedly belongs to this elitarian and fully appreciated circle of sonic wizards. Klute manages to surprise listeners without altering his style, but he rather upgraded it. How? First of all by means of a wise and absolutely well-balanced dosage of many different stylistic hints in a shake that keeps on tasting like a Klute tune: the touch of jazz and ambient he injected in the crackling "Crimson", the soul-ambient breezes (fueled by the delicate vocals by Linden Reeves aka Stamina MC) he framed into a gorgeous percussive break in "Lose My Way", those way of warming low frequencies up by grasping them into flowing tunes, uplifting sonorities and emotional framework (another master in this art that can pair Klute is maybe Seba) in tracks like "Angel Makers", the sci-fi-clipped tunes of "The Dreams" or "Earth Spits Out The Living", the electro-break of "Accept Our Power" or "Clappy" (sounding like a group of alien making a party after sampling the opening of Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood") are just some examples of his unabated creative flair. Titles like "You Won't Like it" for one of the best tunes of the album shows Klute's unchanged irony as well. In a manner of sybilline speaking, I could say that stars are dying. Some others are imploding. But there are stars which keep on shining.
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Artist: Pękala | Kordylasińska | Pękala
Title: Werke für Schlagzeug und elektroakustische Geräte
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Gagarin Records
This album, translating as “Works for Percussion and Electro-Acoustic Devices”, comprises six pieces- one original, and five reworks of pieces by Frank Zappa, Thymme Jones, Steve Reich, and two parts by Felix Kubin.

All of this is transposed into the sonic framework of percussionist duo Milosz Pkala and Magda Kordylasiska. (Why Pkala gets two mentions in the artist name is not made clear.) This is a small, tightly recorded blend of sounds mixing traditional percussion instruments like marimbas and vibraphones with short-waveform found sounds and extremely short digital noises, with the latter tailing off substantially in the second half. While the fashion nowadays seems to be liberal use of reverb and recording in the largest open space you can find, there’s a very close and intimate tone to this studio recording, and that works in its favour.

“Renaissance Gameboy” has a very quirky electronic production that’s got a slapstick sense of humour and a strong love of 8-bit chiptune-style noises. It’s nigh-on daft but loveable, blurring or completely ignoring any line between bedroom programmer’s novelty chiptune and ‘proper’ avantgarde art-music. Fans of the sillier side of Planet Mu or Venetian Snares should lap this up.

The interpretation of Zappa’s challenging “Black Page #1”, complex rhythm patterns played on everyday objects underpinned by the steady sound of a dripping tap, is impressive to the extent that I can’t fathom how any of it would have been performed live. Originally a drum solo, this is a frantic collection of found sounds.

Thymme Jones’ “Smells Like Victory” is a substantial gearshift. This is a percussionist duo’s album, yet for over four of these eight minutes, the percussion is gone, tangibly at least, replaced by a windy, ominous drone, and heavily processed tones that may once have been cymbals, washing like waves. Rather abruptly it jumps into a much more understandable marimba-led piece that, if I’m being honest, reminds me of school A-level music composition. Things are suddenly much more traditional, and the end of this track almost serves as a prelude into the Reich piece.

Steve Reich’s “Vermont Counterpoint” re-arranged for vibraphones and glockenspiels (with the electronics seemingly given a day off) is as mesmerically repetitive and hypnotic as you would expect. The super-long sustain of the vibrating metal builds and builds into a wall of pure complimentary tones, like the finest music box, scaled up- even more so once there’s a notable upping of tempo before the six minute mark. It’s a sound you’ll have heard before, but it’s still deeply pretty.

The self-penned “Modular #1” takes a fast-repeating glitchy tone generated by a modular synthesizer, which frankly sounds like a tiny robot with a broken motor, and uses it as a bed for a percussive duet that gradually gets more busy, until before long the base note is inaudible and we are back in ‘classic percussion solo’ territory to the end.

The CD includes a bonus track not included in this promo, without which at 36 minutes this is a succinct little package but still diverse. The first half goes to show that an album can be avantgarde and still raise a smile, while the second half has the looping-pattern form of percussive pieces that fit the label ‘traditional’ better than the label ‘experimental’, serious percussionists with their straight faces on. As a package it certainly works though.
Mar 02 2017
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Artist: Wealth
Title: Primer
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Ventil Records
“Primer” is a short collection of dark, twisted post-techno soundscaping. Muffled and broken rhythms underpin dark synthetic drones and cathedral-esque tones, with subtly de-tuned, thoroughly modern, stark digital synths squealing and procrastinating over the top. It’s a somewhat familiar sonic set-up, but done with measure and restraint and a good sense of space.

Tracks like “Floor”, with its simple 4-note bass pattern and live-tinged percussion, and closer “Lethe” with its slow and clean melancholy chords, are deceptively simple, with delicate arrangements that skirt around minimalism without ever really being it, an impressive tightrope-walking production act.

Longest track “Plate LXXVI (Diagram For Lilies)” is the most progressive self-contained piece, initially ‘the ballad’ of sorts, soporific electric piano loops gradually making way for a light industrial rhythm.

On the brief “Queen Of The Night”, guest santur player Stefan Fraunberger brings both organic and ethnic flavours and widens the scope of Wealth’s sound, an avenue I’d hope they’d continue to explore on future releases. The more playful stepping of “Snares” is also a highlight.

Wealth’s moody, insular un-techno is a relatively well-tried recipe now, but “Primer” has enough quality in its production to make Wealth one to watch in the future.
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