Music Reviews



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Artist: Glacial23 (@)
Title: s/t
Format: 12"
Label: Savage Quality Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
Glacial23 is Sam Harmon from Cleveland, Ohio, an electronic music producer, instrument builder, noise explorer, etc., and this self-titled 12" is his vinyl debut, although I think he's previously done other things with Glacial23. The record is five tracks - two on the A side, three on the B side. The digital download gives you an extra three tracks, but if you like what I'm going to tell you about the record, you'd better not hesitate because the website says there are only five copies left. This is an entirely instrumental work. The album starts off with "...the last evenings of summer", a mid-tempo number with a repetetive bass line and fairly straightforward drum machine. Light filtered synth chords permeate the mix that seem more for atmosphere than melody. Burbling sequenced synth is also in evidence. It's a Kraftwerkian type of minimalism employed throughout. Very Euro. "Warning Star" picks up the pace a bit and has a typical German techno vibe, with claps in the forefront. Overtly sequenced minimal synth and a strong beat, a club-worthy track. "White Cloud" keeps up the beat and employs lighter echoed sequenced synth, then a complementary lower mid-range sequence. Snare-play appears occasionally, and so far, this is the breakout from minimalism in terms of texture; it's still pretty minimal as far as form goes. "Cheval de Frise" starts with kicks, hats and claps, then sequenced filtered bass. Synth chords provide a hint of melody, and other synth sounds arise to fill in the gaps. For some reason I'm reminded of Marty Rev's (1/2 of Suicide) solo recordings, although it's been quite a while since I've heard them. Last track on the record, "Laminar Techno" is Acid Techno, pure and simple, and that's all there is to say about that. For those more interested in the digital download, I might as well cover those tracks. "Down" keeps true to the style and form of what came before but is a bit more eerie. "taperunner" is a little under 2 minutes of thick, low, growling filtered synth, no beat, no rhythm. "Down (alternate AB-Version)" is a remix of the previous "Down" obviously, sounding even more ominous than the original, and slower, and consequently longer too. It's somewhat noisy, and I found the claps really annoying this go-round, mixed up, while the spooky synth was submerged. In my estimation, the extra track were a bit superfluous. If you like minimal Acid Techno or Acid House, go for the vinyl. Personally, I prefer music that has a bit more substance, and to me, this sounds just so 25 years ago, but for those of you feeling nostalgic, you might want to check this out.
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Artist: Sofus Forsberg (@)
Title: FM Volta
Format: 12"
Label: Mindwaves-Music (@)
Rated: *****
Berlin-based Danish electronica artist Sofus Forsberg has been kicking around since 1998, and 'FM Volta' is his third album, the previous work, 'Udefra' being released in 2005. 'FM Volta' is the first one I've heard though, so I have to base my review solely on it. 'FM Volta' opens up with a barrage of rhythmic plinks and plunks on "Take Fibrillo" that almost seem random until you discern the pattern, and I get the impression that it's all about patterns in Forsberg's musical world, or at least here on 'FM Volta'. It's almost like hyper-speed early Kraftwerk. This is the lengthiest piece on the EP at 7:07, and as it morphs over time more elements are introduced, such as a scraping noise loop, a more defined programmed drum component and bass activity, as well as other ambient synth sonics. "Dear Noft" is still quite active in the rhythm department, but with an overlay of lighter, dream-like synths. "one More Time" employs a hollowish metallic rhythm (undoubtedly ring-modulated) contrasted by ping-pong percussion and other glitchy elements. Moving on to the B-side, "Chineese Swamp" seems steeped in random sample & hold at first until you realize it's not so random. There is definitely a method to Forsberg's madness and after a few listenings, this track seems downright funky! I like the subtle elements employed here although I wouldn't necessarily describe the track as subtle. Very busy in a sort of crazy but productive way. "WMC" dispenses with anything conventionally melodic to begin with using a variety of synth-based loops that are more noise-based than harmonic. The harmonics do come in about halfway through if the form of ghostly chords, and the rhythmic component is more evident, although still somewhat abstract. Final and title track, "FM Volta" is the most accessible and melodic piece on the album. Intriguing shimmery chords are at the core of it, rhythmically backed by hats, and later, some processed drum sounds. Woven in-between are various electronics.

I have to say that Forsberg's 'FM Volta' is as good as anything I've heard by Autechre, being in the same vein, but different somehow. There is less of a tendency to take his compositions far afield, but the experimental vibe is there all the same. I appreciate the artist's focus in the cohesiveness of the tracks presented on 'FM Volta', and this is surely "thinking man's music", although it is not so sterile that it abnegates the human component and feel. It's possible that after repeated listenings you will get to the heart of what Forsberg is trying to convey on 'FM Volta', which is not just simply an exercise of what can be done with modular synthesis. That's kind of a good thing because it keeps you coming back for more. While the album is available in digital download, I'd recommend the 180 gram 12" record, which is limited to 300 copies available from Mindwaves.
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Artist: Le Cliché
Title: Consumer Behaviour
Format: 12"
Label: Medical Records
Rated: *****
Le Cliché is the revived brainchild of Irish born musician and Associate Professor of marketing and consumer behaviour Gerard Ryan and 'Consumer Behaviour' shall be his long awaited album debut. Originally established in 1984, Le Cliché is currently enjoying its second coming as it were, having been re-ignited in 2012, apparently motivated by a large influx of likeminded 1980's electro pop projects being rediscovered and rereleased. The music itself is highly influenced by classic 1980's synth bands á la OMD and Kraftwerk, with all tracks being of a very minimalistic nature, and might be best described as postmodernist electro pop with 'neo-consumerist themes'. Given Ryan's field of academia, it comes as no surprise that his lyrical themes are heavily based upon consumer behaviour and the 'consumption centred society in which we live'. Musically, this record is far from spectacular, most melodies are highly repetitive, pulsating synths occasionally combined with half decent lush synth strings and very basic drum beats. There is little variance in speed of the pieces and most only convey very few musical ideas, with most taking the same melody and synth string break and repeating it over and over for the rest of the song, occasionally throwing in a vocal sample of someone saying something relating to the title of the track. The best example of this would be 'Aquaphobia' where the phrases 'Aquaphobia' 'Fear of water' and 'I can't swim' are repeated several times. I was told that this track and 'Ventolin' deal with more 'personal and intimate topics', so one can only imagine that he has aquaphobia and how it is the bane of his life and that everyday must be an treacherous upward struggle against the dreaded H2O. I'll give it to you that these tracks are personal but are quite out of touch with intimacy, the delivery of the samples are plain and drab, with a few a slivers of emotion on display, which is disappointing more than anything. My favourite track on this record would have to be 'Ventolin', not because of the lyrics, not because of the 'intimate and personal' theme, but solely because this track appears like a lot more time has gone into its creation. The track is laden with emotive synth string leads which offers a refreshing change to the previous 25 minutes. This record focuses on the drab and the mundane aspects of everyday life, it focuses on the ironies of our consumer based society in which we live in, but in the effort to be critical, it becomes the very thing it's mocking. This album is as dull as the consumerist society it criticizes. The sound seems stuck on the fringe of electro pop in 1979 and isn't keen on leaving anytime soon. 'Consumer Behaviour' was released on December 25th and can be bought as a 180gram vinyl from Medical Records.
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Artist: Psychosomatik (@)
Title: State of Oppression
Format: CDS (CD Single)
Label: PSK Records
Rated: *****
'State of Oppression' is the 2nd album released by French industrial duo 'PSYCHOSOMATIK', this release comes after an 11 year hiatus from music following their debut album released in 2003.The album presents us with a well crafted dark, industrial sound, mainly eerie in nature but sometimes evolving into more groovy, catchy rhythms that you could almost dance too like on 'No Time To Lose (Negociation of Peace)' Most synth rhythms on this album are undeniably catchy, and it is quite easy to see from the get go that this is their forte, as track after track the duo present us with infectious synth laden pieces. Drums are usually frantic, hard hitting and heavily distorted, sometimes a little bit simple but they consistently create a high tempo, pulsating beat that complements the synths and vocals brilliantly. Vocals are almost ghost like, sounding like a cold winter wind blew them straight to your ears. In some ways it can be said that the vocals complement the songs, however after sometime and notably in some of the more hard hitting songs, there becomes an apparent lack of substance and variation in the vocal department, the vocals sound almost too weak and are sometimes overpowered by the music behind them, which means PSYCHOMATIK are missing out on adding a much more powerful dimension to their music. They've shown that they're very proficient in eerie industrial but fail to deliver when they attempt to go for a more powerful, hard hitting approach. Lyrically, the end product is relatively solid, far from exceptional but equally as far from awful. Additionally, the band decided to include two remixes of 'No Time To Lose' the first of which being more dubstep in nature with the second following a similar style as to that used by PSYCHOMATIK. I quite liked the first remix and I really felt it added a whole other dimension to the album. The second didn't really add much to the overall album, instead it just felt like another repeat of 'No Time To Lose'. My favourite track on the album would have to be 'No Time To Lose (Negociation of Peace)' due to the impressive, eerie atmosphere created, catchy vocals and infections, dance worthy synths. State of Oppression is out now and is well worth checking out.
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Artist: Susanna Gartmayer (@)
Title: AOUIE - Solos for Bass Clarinet
Format: 10"
Label: God Records/Chmafu Nocords (@)
Rated: *****
The very first seconds of this release by bass clarinet player Susanna Gartmayer could surmise the incendiary tonal whirls by Colin Stetson and seem to follow that compositional path, but the astonishingly adventurous route that the brilliant Austrian musician explore pushes his instrument beyond the above-mentioned matching. The remarkable variagated range of transitions results from different places where it was performed and recorded (a museum, a theatre bar, a church, an electronic music club, a shop and so on), different playing positions of the performer, different playing direction, different audiences as well as different formations of mouth cavity - each track has been titled by corresponding vowels -, so that rooms together with bass clarinet and every side noise such as the breath, the tapping of the keys and the clanging of the instrument can be considered as reagents of the composition. The opening swirling of "AE" sounds like withdrawing into itself before the final eruption, the faint tonal filaments of "U" and "UE" move towards unforeseen directions, the buzz which opens the final "A" gets more and more incandescent, the austerely solemn mumble of bass clarinet of the central "E" (recorded in St.Ruprechts Church, Vienna) occasionally as well as the sly sneaking of "I" show tonal abrasions before their final dissipation, while the more vibrant movements of "O" is the icing on the cake of this multidimensional journey into bass clarinet sound.
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