Music Reviews



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Artist: Queensway
Title: East West
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Syncopix Records (@)
Rated: *****
A clip for a track, which came out on Blu Mar Ten Music three or four years ago, looking like a sort of advertisement for cheap garment, accessories or costume jewellery, persuaded me to ignore the stuff by the Ukrainian producer Nikolay Shvets aka Queensway and the circumstance that his new album came out on the self-named label by Syncopix, the moniker of Roland Boghdan - another producer who seems too obsessively focused on jingles than tunes - almost persuaded to do the same for his recent outputs. I decided to set aside some reservations about music makers, who sold their talent to marketing, and pressed play to listen to its recent album "East West". I have to admit this guy is a really talented producer and even if some tracks keep on sounding so loungy that the above-described first impression got somehow validated - I could mention "A'l Cappuccino", which could perfectly work as a musical background in a beauty center for fashionistas, or "Generation", which makes me imagine a finger food course unmeaningful (but nonsensically chic) meal -, Queensway's skills in forging soulfully lukewarm moments, particularly those ones when he seems to reprise 90ies chill dub or electronic downbeat of the following decade such as "The Untitled", "Airsand" or the title-track "East West" as well as something up-tempo like "To The Stars" or "Cym", manage to mitigate and tone down my opinion on excessively stereotyped sonic casting.
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: The Re:Birth EP
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Utopia Music (@)
Rated: *****
The cover artwork of this release could look like a party favor for St.Valentine's Day, but in spite of love for music is something for noble-hearted people, it's just the image that Utopia Music used for a compilation of four tracks. The label has partially got out of our radar, as its activity got partially frozen by the plenty of collaborations of his boss Mako for other labels. Moreover, it seems Mako decided to save plastic and money in order to increase the digital releases in their pot, but quality of bass-driven sonorities stays the same: the first two tracks explore some interesting depths of mid-tempo DNB, but while "87", the track by which David 'Hydro' Pearson, Samy 'War' Ponsar and Mateo 'Mateba' Zanibelli begin the dive, sounds more anxious, Paul 'Coerce' Webb comes adrift less stormy waters on the almost relaxing track "Merkava", which gets closer to chill-dub stylistic territories. Israeli producer increases the level PLK on the amazing computational hyper-stepped movement of "Dreamware", whose digital smooths got rippled by roaring low frequencies and nice echoes - it could resemble some stuff by Photek -, and paves the way for the almost unrecognizable ReDub by label boss of Sunchase's "Nathnennia", whose underwater-like delays and daydreaming dilutions are suitable for romance between humans and sea horses...
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Artist: Storm (@)
Title: Medusa
Format: CD
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
It wasn't that long ago that I reviewed Hawaii's premier Progressive Goth Metal band Storm's debut album, 'Storm's a Brewin'. Although there were a few issues, they showed a lot of promise, and I didn't expect them to be back so soon with a followup, let alone concept album that is actually a full-blown metal musical. 'Medusa' is a retelling of the Ovidian version of the Greek mythological tale you may already be familiar with from 'Clash of the Titans'. In a nutshell, the beautiful Medusa, high priestess of Athena, attracts the unwanted attention of Poseidon who rapes her in Athena's temple. Athena is none too pleased about this and takes it out on Medusa, transforming here into a hideous Gorgon (hair turned into serpents, terifying visage, etc.) and banishes her to a far northern island. Any glory seekers who gazed upon Medusa's horrific countenance were turned to stone. That is until the heroic Perseus comes along with a mirrored shield (and a few other other gifts from the Gods) and beheads her. There's a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.

The role of Medusa is played by Sandy Essman, lead singer of Storm, Perseus by Kevin Jones, Athena by Margaret Ransdell-Green and Poseidon by Ka'imi Hanano'eau. Gerard K. Gonsalves - drums; Darren Soliven - bass; Jase LeFebvre - guitar; and Eric Barker - keyboards are the musicians in Storm. The album opens with a brief deep voiced narrration over some foreboding musical ambience - "It is a time of Gods, of monsters, of mortals..." on "A Prelude to Tragedy" before the band launches into "The Priestess". Miss Essman is a poweful witchy vocalist, perfect for playing Medusa. The song lyrics are faithful to the story, and songs well constructed for dramatic effect. Musically, the band has moved into proggier territory; likely Mr. Barker's contributions have stimulated that as his keyboards take on a more defined role. I am also noticing that the recording is better balanced than Storm's debut. "A God's Desire" is a track that could easily stand on its own outside of the concept album. Great hook! Musicianship is top-notch throughout.

Now for the downside- that deep-pitched narrator shows up at the beginning of every track leading the listener by nose (or ears), and it gets overbearing. Not that it isn't well done; I just don't think every track needs a voiceover. Here we need to pause a moment, and consider this isn't just some concept album, but a "metal musical", or perhaps more accurately- a "metal opera". Without much actual dialogue (spoken words by the players), some narration is helpful in order to flesh out the concept. This likely works better live than in a purely audio format.

Back on the positive side, the album flows very well and the guest vocalists are very good in their roles. Kevin Jones as Persius gets a bit more vocal time, and sounds somewhat like Geddy Lee to these ears. Since the guest vocalists are integral to performing this album, they undoubtedly will have to be along for the ride when the band tours this album. From what I've seen of their debut performance in Hawaii, this show is meant to be done complete with costumes and props. It won't be cheap to tour 'Medusa', but if Storm really want to make its mark, tour it they must. How soon that happens could be dependent on the band's new guitarist, Collen Kelton, replacing Jase who is leaving to further his military career.

It ought to be interesting to see how well 'Medusa' is received live beyond the shores of Hawaii. My best guess, if done properly, it will go down A STORM.
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Artist: Kode9
Title: Nothing
Format: CD
Label: Hyperdub (@)
Rated: *****
In spite of its title, the first solo album by Steve Goodman aka Kode9, the man behind the curtains of the excellent Hyperdub, is not really a devotional act to nihilism. Many musicians and sound artists prefer to refer to their recording studio as proper laboratories, as the connection between science and sound is closer than someone could guess and the work on sound parameters could look like the one of a scientist which test different conditions for an experiment; Kode 9 seems to build a sonic bridge between his sonic science and quantum mechanics, but you don't need to know quantum field theory or other matters to appreciate Kode9's output, even if I could say as an occasional reader of that branch of literature where more or less notorious theoretical physicist try to make the matter easier for common people, "Nothing" could enhance any peak over some interesting scientific ridges: the opening "Zero Point Energy", which got ignited by colliding metallic electrons before a sort of black hole (simply a distorted bass) swallows the track, as well as many other sticky sonic grids like the perfectly cut "Holo" - a really impressive output that he made by modified female vocals, synth sound, sub-bass pulsations and astonishing percussive elements -, the gorgeous "Zero Work" - a sort of strange artifact from some unknown planet in between future dubstep and footwork -, the trap-like computational chains of "Notel" and "Vacuum Packed", the rhythmical beat-driven rolling of "Respirator" where a human breathe sounds like overlapping the radar picture of cosmic breathe, the funny ping-pong of samples on "Casimir Effect" or the masterfully remake of "9 Samurai" (together with Spaceape), one of the best moment of his first steps that he renamed as "9 Drones" immediately launch listeners into this sort of augmented hyperreality, where the joy of discovery and the concern of human mind in front of the Infinite coexist. Likewise catchy, the memory of his friend and partner-in-art Spaceape, who died after a prolonged battle against cancer in 2014, is another strong feeder of this great album: he seems to live again on the track "Third Ear Transmission" in the shape of an immortal digital entity which managed to find a broadcasting channel from the afterlife dimension that he already knows, as well as in the enchanting "Void", a tune which was originally made for the vocalist, and the final "Nothing Lasts Forever", whose whimsical electric overture got pulverized by the 9 minutes of silence that follow...
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Artist: Sabre
Title: Yoga - Alix Perez remixes
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Plasma Audio
Rated: *****
One of the first beating of wings by Melbourne-based label Plasma Audio was "Yoga", a track by which DJ Gove Kidao aka Sabre combined sinister catchy sonorities and bouncing wonky beats; the label recently decided to reprise it and include that tune in a release, which includes a couple of remixes of a young wizard of drum 'n' bass scene, the Noth-London-based Belgian DJ and producer Alix Depauw aka Alix Perez, who already collaborated with Sabre on some beat-driven sonic patterns. Both his Club mix and his Warped mix features a higher ratio of inertia as the elements of the original version sound more burdened with distortion, an aspect which got slightly mitigated by wider echo and reverberation as well as by some funny collisions of "bumps" against "swishes" on the first one, which I mostly prefer for shrewdly inoculated embellishments.
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