Music Reviews



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Artist: Mats Eilertsen
Title: Reveries and Revelations
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Hubro
Established bassist Mats Eilertsen is no stranger to live performance as an experimental jazz bassist, but set about building “Reveries and Revelations” in a different manner to usual. Rather than capturing any live improvised elements, “Reveries and Revelations” is studio-centric. Eilertsen would constantly re-edit and layer his own work whilst composing it, making the production integral to the composition. Furthermore, each of the guest artists who appear throughout the release never performed any of this together; each was sent elements of the work and invited to contribute their own ideas, which they sent back for incorporation into the evolving work.

The result, unsurprisingly, is a heavily ‘produced-sounding’ album- rich, warmly and intimately recorded analogue instrumentation, treated respectfully to bring out the textures and qualities of each element.

Compositionally, it ends up having the flavour of a soundtrack album, composed by a single person with help from his friends; each of the ten short pieces seems to have been crystallised around a particular mood or idea that could potentially be tied into larger storytelling. “Endless” for example has a tense and journeying aspect to it, while “Bouvet Blues” makes no effort to escape the bass tone’s long-standing association with film noir and black-and-white detective stereotypes. “Venus” allows Eilertsen’s double bass the chance to shine as the lead melodic element in a darkly romantic nighttime scene, while “Siberian Sorrow” sets classic ‘death-of-the-hero’s-mentor’ emotive string work onto odder rhythms.

Odder moments include “Signal”, which gives the impression of having been built around the sound of small tools and spanners accidentally being dropped, and “Polynesia Pluck” which samples ethnic-sounding rhythmic elements but reforms them in a thoroughly post-modern European chin-stroking fashion.

It’s a compact and emotive little work over which a great deal of care has been taken. There’s nothing particularly novel about it, nor challenging, but if you like your jazz cinematic, thoughtful and bass-rich, you’ll certainly enjoy this particular sonic blanket.
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Artist: Compactor (@)
Title: Infrastructure
Format: Tape
Label: Oxidation
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed Compactor’s “Technology Worship” and found it to be absolutely inspiring, so when Marc of Oxidation dropped me a line to let me know that he was sending me the new tape from Compactor to review I wondered how it would measure up. Seriously – it was the best noise album I had heard in quite some time. Well, System Administrator Derek Rush has managed to do it again by changing the approach a bit. If Technology Worship was a manifesto of sorts on technology, this one can be seen as a statement on our crumbling infrastructure. First off, let’s talk about the packaging. I was recently lamenting to my wife that with the advent of digital downloading, we have gotten away from the ridiculous packaging that made each release more than simply an audio recording, but also an object of art. Benner has been in this scene for a long time and clearly was feeling the same thing because this packaging is fantastic. The tape is packaged between two weathered metal plates and wrapped in painted wire mesh, then held together by two bolts. The packaging also serves as a fitting enclosure for this album; I like to think that the fact that it is only held together by two bolts rather than the four it should have had to truly secure the tape is intentional, representing our impulse to cut corners when possible. The liner artwork echoes this sentiment, with scenes of urban decay overlaid with assessments from the American Society of Civil Engineers grading infrastructure at an overall level of D+. Now on to the music itself. This tape consists of two tracks. “Advancing Decline” kicks it off with an industrial track, and I mean this in the sense of Test Department pounding on iron girders in an underpass to make music. Pounding machinery merges with rumbling, distorted analog bass tones. This is music meant to evoke machinery. Metal clanks and rattles throughout as the bass plods away in its slow rhythm until it all dissolves into a grinding wall of distortion, static, and feedback. Turn it over and we have “Total Failure.” The machinery is gone and noise is all that remains. The sound evokes an engine that just can’t seem to turn over, the screech of gears out of place, a belt that is slipping. Overall, this is another solid release from Compactor. It’s limited to 40 copies, so if you’re like me you’ll want to get the physical release before it’s gone, but unlike some of the weird packaged releases from back in the day, this music stands on its own quite well. This tape weighs in at around 20 minutes.
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Artist: Foot and Mouth Disease
Title: Forever is Composed of Nows
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
Foot and Mouth Disease is the work of Lawrence J. Patti, who hails from Rochester NY and describes his music as “mangled electronic splatter.” Other than that, I couldn’t find a lot on this project, so let’s dive right into this release. First off, this does not seem that mangled, nor does it seem splattered. Disc one is nicely composed electronics, however. Overall, it resists a consistent style, but it lives up to the evocative title, as each track serves as a slice of life. If there is one thing tying disc one together, it is an emphasis on bass. “Nows 2” features heavy bass with warbling synth tones. “Nows 3” is low bass with distorted bass percussion. “Nows 4” is a wonderfully melancholy track that has quiet, plodding drums over a slow synth line. “Nows 7” begins with heavy dark ambient bass along the lines of Lustmord’s “Heresy” before ending abruptly and switching to a short bass-driven composition. “Nows 5” buzzes along with some overlapping drones and percussion that would be quite at home on a soundtrack. Disc 2 switches gears somewhat, as “Grand Jester 10” brings out the whimsical side of life with analog synth lines that fall over themselves like a slinky down a staircase. If “The Smile 9” is meant to evoke a smile, it’s the nervous smile of someone lost in an unfamiliar town long after the streetlights have gone out and most people have gone to bed. There is a sense of dread embedded in the track that works quite well. “The Smile 10” is a spacey analog track that is reminiscent of 1950’s sci-fi sound effects. This is the sound of the mad scientist’s lab. Along the same lines, “Grand Jester 5” is nothing to laugh about. This is well done analog noise that threatens to dissolve into feedback at any moment but just manages to hold it together, albeit with a healthy dose of distortion functioning as the tie that binds. Finally, “Nows 1” takes a sudden shift with calm guitar strumming over synth drone that is almost peaceful after the rest of the disc, but still maintains a sense of unease. Overall, this was a very nice listen if you like your soundscapes with a bit of an edge to them. This is noisy, but not noise, and manages to be a bit foreboding, but not cheesy. It’s nice to find something with a sense of balance between light and dark. This set weighs in at around 40 minutes.
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Artist: prd (@)
Title: Tines Down
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I had previously reviewed prd’s “LEGO Amy Hair” and loved it, so I was interested to see what this disc would bring. The liner notes say that this was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs, and the raw nature of this composition illustrates the power to be had in this strategy. Tines Down is a 19-minute journey through an analogue landscape. Bubbling synth boils just beneath a sawtooth wave that wavers throughout the track, keeping it all together. Buzzing and crackling sounds break through occasionally and disembodied voices distorted far beyond recognition enter the scene, only to be buried in feedback and static. All of this fades away like a plane flying off into the distance until only silence remains. Well done. This album weighs in at around 19 minutes.
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Artist: Formaldehydra (@)
Title: Hag Harbor
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Inner Demons Records
Rated: *****
I could not find a whole lot on Formadehydra, except that the bandcamp page states that the hail from Lakeland Florida. I finally found an Instagram page that links to Dylan Houser, so it seems that this is another project from the same person. I had previously reviewed Houser’s “Thunk,” which I described as “a chaotic mess, which is everything that noise should be,” so I figured that I would be in for some noise. This disc departs from Thunk’s clanking, rumbling feedback-laden composition in favor of a wall of rumbling noise. This is pleasant listening for the noise aficionado, but as I have stated before, I like some variety in my noise. Thankfully, this is well balanced, with bits of high end quietly emerging from the staticy bass rumble. I enjoyed it enough on its own, although I would have liked a lot more to happen in a 22-minute track. What makes this particularly interesting is listening to it and considering the exterior sounds that interrupt as part of the composition – the planes flying overhead, the dog barking outside, the people talking outside of my window. One can easily think of this as a noise version of John Cage’s 4:33 where the audience must contribute to the composition. This album weighs in at 22 minutes.
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