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Artist: Keosz (@)
Title: AVA
Format: CD
Label: Cryo Chamber (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Keosz continues along the path of "Be Left to Oneself" with his blend of dark ambient and melodic element. This time the guitar is added so it's now closer to rock than modern classical and it's even more distant from the canonical form of the genre.
There's a layer of noise that takes the first track of this release, "Aquitted from Illness", out of the usual framework of the genre and creates a complex spectrum for the listener to decode while "All I Had To Do" and "AVA" are closer to the canon as they revolve around carefully crafted drones. "Downfall" tries to create musical movement with his succession of quiet moments and thicker ones. The strings of "Nothing Left But Gloom" are evocative and create a sense of narrative as they follow a melody rather than be a layer of the drone and this path is confirmed in "Consigned To Limbo" where the strings are substituted by the guitar. "Behind The Horizon Of Preconceptions" is a reassuring return to form while "Resurrection From The Dust" continues in this research of elements borrowed by rock music as it sound as a sort of shoegaze above a dark ambient landscape that is followed, after "Equanimity Of The Senses", by "They Took All I Had" where the ambient element is even less present. "Farewell To Hollow Space" closes this release with a return to the form of the first track leaving with a sense of completeness.
This a release is a bit uncertain between a rock oriented and a ambient oriented form but this aspect creates a sense of variety that is an antidote to boredom. Recommended.
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Artist: Snog
Title: Rich Kuntz
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
When asked by magazine Cyclic Defrost which tracks of his album "Compliance" was proud of, Australian producer David Thrussel (the mind behind many genuinely irreverent projects that most of our readers should already know such as Black Lung, Soma - with Pieter Bourke -, Crisis Actor, The Enemy and Snog of course) quoted "Rick Kuntz", who got described by its author as "the theme song for a bunch of football hooligans home-invading the sea-side landed gentry in their beach villa". Last year Metropolis released a couple of digital remix-based (this one and "The Clockwork Man") followed by a larger collection ("The Clockwork Man (Non-Compliant Remixes In The Age Of Obedience)", available on CD as well as AAC, FLAC, MP3 and WAV), but I warmly suggest to check this one first for a set of reasons. First of all, the healthy scornful vision provided by the lyrical content of the song and its full adherence to the fierce aesthetics that David poured through his projects by using different stylistic registers. The second reason is the inclusion of some great remixes by VICMOD (a Promethean project to teach the masses how to build modular synthesizers) expertise Ross Healy: the venomous whiplashes of Ross' Austerity remix has also been included in the above-mentioned collection (as well as the "zombified" breakbeat of Hi Freq Dionysian RMX, sounding like a magmatic appendix of Black Lung's sonorities), but the likewise amazing infected disco of his Dogshit remix is an exclusive track of this output. Other exclusives on it are the moderately aggressive corroded breaks of Solypsis Crunchy Edition remix of "Compliance TM", the electric amniocentesis of "Rich Kuntz" and a sort of sci-fi theme derived from "Compliance TM" by Ross Healy's alter ego Cray.
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Artist: Ian Hawgood
Title: Love Retained
Format: CD
Label: Home Normal (@)
Rated: *****
This lovely output by Ian Hawgood, the man behind the curtains of Home Normal came out on the label's store as a gift for Christmas, but it reached stores after one month. Maybe the way I described Ian in the previous sentence could summarise the floating of his musical soul and his memory by which he watered "Love Retained" - the 100th release of his imprint -, as it's a moving evidence of humanity and got composed during days when Ian was somehow behind the curtains. He masked his depression to the eyes of his friends and family till the moment a particularly stressing moment, related to his decision of leaving Japan together with his wife in early 2015. In his own words: "The intensity of the move and the reasons behind it caused a huge amount of stress for us both and due to our backgrounds we were unable to communicate just how hard this was to any of our friends and family. By early autumn, my mother and sister one day had come over to find me curled up in a ball, unable to speak and in an uncontrollable fit of tears. This was nothing new after a life spent in and out of severe depression but it was the first time family had seen this directly in my adulthood.". Dedicated to the women of his life (mostly his wife and his sister, I guess), Ian initially composed the piano sketches he included in this album for future collaborations, but he finally decided to keep as they were with no editing or mastering. They got recorded on cassette and looped on low levels in the nighttime or when his mind was wondering or wandering, as he told in the introductory words for "Love Retained", and his decision of offering them incomplete is a meaningful gift, as incompletion is "a beautiful and freeing thing" in Ian's viewpoint. Some of the piano loops are really good for nocturnal meditations, other ones sound like sonic heartfelt portraits of people that helped Ian to come out of that state of mind, but the whole release got imbued with an intense and catchy emotionality. In the introduction of "Love Retained", Ian focused on a very important aspect of depression, that got often misunderstood by people who try to support them, but in a wrong way: "Silence is the real killer. It feels embarrassing and shameful to speak of such things as it shows weakness, which leads to awful judgement from most people. This may sound negative, but the simple fact is we all judge others whether we want to or not. And those who suffer from depression have a stigma attached to them. That stigma's name is 'pity' and it isn't very helpful in truth, albeit understandable. People who suffer from depression can feel joy, can laugh, and can connect deeply to others, but they also need friends and family to support them now and then in a world where people are growing increasingly alien to one another.". All the profits from this album have been and will be donated to Mind (check their website here: http://mind.org.uk/), a charity organisation helping people suffering from mental diseases.
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Artist: Zeitkratzer + Elliott Sharp
Title: Oneirika
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Karlrecords / Zeitkratzer Productions
Nine-piece experimental acoustic ensemble Zeitkratzker make themselves up to 10 thanks to a guest appearance from Elliott Sharp who adds saxophone, electric guitar, and “conduction” (presumably as a musical conductor rather than an electrical one). It’s a seamless addition to a comfortable, established ensemble combining piano, strings, doublebass, bassclarinet, brass and guitar into an arrangement that’s avantgarde in performance but traditional in construction.

Driven by a score which was initially conventional before it was processed and mangled in Photoshop, of all places, this is an impulsive bit of chaotic improvisation. The many players come and go in a variety of combinations, many of them bordering on cacophonous, as though the only real instructions being provided are controls over speed and discipline. Everything else has a raw attitude symptomatic of the ‘waking dream’ theme.

“Oneirika” is one 47-minute piece, divided into ten parts. Mostly this division is for convenience rather than any musical distinction, with some exceptions- part 4, for example, starts off from a steady kick drum rhythm before developing out of it. Heavy slightly oompah brass in part 6 evokes images of a circus performance going dark, while the rumbling escalating tension in part 8 is reminiscent of a György Ligeti work.

Despite being a live performance the recording quality is excellent, and it could certainly be mistaken for a studio album. Besides the exemplary recording quality though, it feels like an ensemble performance that, ironically for the ‘avantgarde’ label, could have been recorded at any time in the last fifty years. It’s a work with an impressive scale, but one that somehow no longer challenges.
Jun 16 2017
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Artist: Ekoplekz
Title: Bioprodukt
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Planet Mu Records
Bristol-based Ekoplekz (Nick Edwards) is certainly prolific, with more than a dozen albums under that name since 2010. Perhaps the high rate of output is helped by the confident simplicity of the music, which is simple acid loops and mellow, slow techno-light grooves and bleeps, with occasional snippets of melodic pattern but no vocals.

But that’s not to say it’s half-baked, certainly not- this is disciplined and controlled pattern use to create a pack of ten standalone mesmeric moods. Many of them have at least one foot in the past, with classic 808 clap sounds and modest, analogue-ish subbasses. Sonically, “Consequences” wouldn’t sound out of place on the classic 1994 compilation album “Trance Europe Express 2” (which incidentally is high praise as that’s one of my favourite albums of all time, but that’s another story). Others like “Expedition” only expose their modern origin through slightly glitchier and crisper digital cut tones, the kind of sounds that make Planet Mu the ideal home for this release.

There is breadth here as well though, this isn’t just 10 identical pieces. “Transience” brings a slightly Eastern flavour to the percussion, while “Slipstream” and “Descent” wallow in rich dubby delays and warm lo-fi EQ. “X-Over” is a deeper stripped-back rolling subbass affair that enjoys and justifies its nine minute run.

It’s a remarkably balanced and really enjoyable chilled-out listen, perfect for people who have fond memories for the golden years of 90’s chilled out electronica.
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