Music Reviews

Artist: Midnight Doctors
Title: Through a Screen and into the Hole
Format: CD
Label: Ouro (@)
Rated: *****
Formerly known for his amazing project Hapsburg Braganza, melting electric guitar modulations, electroacoustic techniques and experimental hooks, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne-based skilled sound designer, producer and composer Phil Begg recently brought his big-band long-term studio project Midnight Doctors that seems to have been evolved by a series of gigs to the attention of my ears and my ears really enjoyed it. The emotional lukewarm wrapping of the preface of this album, the opening track "Life and Light Apart", kicks this borderline sonic experience off by melting faint rattling violins and a somberly hushed melody on guitar, piano and John Pope's double bass, which becomes more and more solemn as violins highlights the mood and drums begin to crawl over sonorities that could resemble some stuff in between Bohren & Der Club Of Gore and Roy Orbison; Joe Posset's nice tape jams and first electroacoustic entities by Begg himself ignite the following "Chump Change", a wisely crooked movement where the occasional absence of drumming seems to upset the weak balance of other instruments, which seem to find a new balance in the almost peaceful ventricular fibrillation of the following "Long Sands Black Labrador", a fragile balance that got dissolved in the obliquely sinister electroacoustic echoes and peremptory glacial percussions of "Death of Similaun Man". The foggy and raggedly seducing jazzadelic atmospheres of "Rust Coloured Smoke" opens the second half of the record, where Midnight Doctors unwind the brooding interferences and tape artifacts of "My Forsyth (Demonic Frequency)", the delicate fragile beauty of "Climatic Loss", where the big band seems to puff emotionally driven sporadic breaths into a crystalline motionless scene, and the final lukewarm intimacy of "The Slow Way Home", where the cinematic tricks that hooked listeners got sharpened by Americana-folk hints.
Artist: Hijokaidan (@)
Title: Emergency Stairway To Heaven
Format: 12" vinyl + CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
The new album from Hijokaidan is a double release: a 12" release with the title track and a CD release with two live performances. Often enough Hijokaidan have been classified as a noise band, and they are considered as one of the first bands in this genre, but their music has that sort of Colemanesque quality that let emerge from the mass of the instrumentations the single quality of the performers.
Emergency Stairway To Heaven is a track divided in four parts: the "Part 1" starts with a radio signal which is suddenly interrupted by the guitar and the screaming, the energetic drumming sets a time frame where the music develops with convulsion and contractions interleaved by quiet mass of drones. "Part 2" is instead quite calm as it relies on sparse beats on cymbals and sporadic instruments noises so the result is almost psychedelic. "Part 3" close the side A of the vinyl with an overlapping of the instruments giving the sense of an apparent chaos. The "Part 4" last for all the side B and is a long track which starts quietly and alternates moments in which the voice and drums are in the foreground to moments in which the other instruments bear them; this structure let emerge the peculiar quality of the members: the ductility of the screaming, the framework of the drums, the texture of the electronic and the movement of the guitar.
The CD version collects two concert: the first is "Live At Uplink 20th May 2014" which is based on the thick mass of sound generated by the electronics of T. Mikawa which periodically leave a space for the screaming of Junko and the synthesizer of JOJO Hiroshige. The second is "Live At Chikusa-Za 21st Dec. 2014" and the presence of Futoshi Okano on drums is the elements that change the auditory structure as it changes completely his equilibrium so while the first live relies on details, this one relies on the dynamic as is sounds as every instruments take the lead role for seconds or fraction.
The impressive quality of this band stands in the absence of boredom in their music, while other projects sound able only to create a noise wall without any movements or rifts, as they amplify all the fissures in their sound to generate the same sense of form that could be found in a Pollock painting. If anyone remember in which record there's such painting the circle is closed. Absolutely a must for fans of the genre.
Artist: Kapital
Title: Chaos To Chaos
Format: CD
Label: Instant Classic (@)
Rated: *****
Kapital, the bicephalous project by Rafal Iwanski (playing or controlling a tone generator, an analog synthesizer, a rhythm machine, a sampling unit, a sampling pad, congas, metallophones, rattles, found objects, horns as well as his own voice and other special effects!) and Jakub Kuba Ziotek (another great sonic mind under an electric guitar, 6- and 12-stringc acoustic guitars, analog and digital synths, loop station, clarinet, gongs, another sampling unit, a dvojnica double flute - a woodwind instrument from Serbia and Southern Hungary -), forges its second output after the praiseworthy debut release "No New Age" (coming out on Polish experimental label Boclan Records) by referring to the illustrious genius of their fellow countryman Stanislaw Lem as a fitted framework for their impressive stylistic symmetries. The novel they quote Lem's "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub" in the inlay of "Chaos To Chaos" - if you carefully see that diamond on the cover artwork, you can consider it a quotation or a reflection of well-known ocean of memories on planet Solaris, maybe the most known work by Lem -, a little pearl of modern science-fiction where the somehow paranoid dystopian setting intersects that kind of bitter satire that could be injected by means of more or less hidden allusions to social science and political themes, inspired by the finding of some notes (Notes from the Neogene) by a narrator, who was losing his mind when he understood that the only ruler of the days he was living was chaos and that such an awareness fed social life by paranoid thoughts. It is rather odd that the first edition of this novel has a drawn ear on the cover and if you imagine that Kapital's music could have been made for the paranoid pleasure of the protagonist of Lem's novel, who could have some similarities to contemporary human beings, can improve the listening experience they provided. The oblique technoid movement of the opening Kap-Eh-Thaal, where the deceptively abstractions of shining sounds sweeten the tightness of the first part of the track, the scented wool over listener's ears on the lukewarm psychedelia of "Paradis Electronique", the flavoured malaise evoked by "Kolaps", the rising pressurization counterbalanced by the anaesthetic effected guitars on "Trans-Mania", the delusional nuance of the only proper song of the album "The Music Of Goodbye", the estranging hybrid of peaceful ambient and disquieting mechanical roaring of Cyborg Interchaos", the time-delay switch that seems to clock human emotions on "M.I.T." and the otherworldly landing of "Zona Incognita" render that kind of drugged feeling of oppression, where artificial illusions seem to rule human behaviour, where even the awareness of being controlled immunises any attempt of self-releasing.
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Artist: 6Comm
Title: One Mans Hel
Format: CD
Label: Kenaz
Rated: *****
Active since 1986, they released the first album "Content With Blood" the year after. Now, after about thirty years of life, 6Comm is no more. Patrick Leagas decided that it was time to focus his energies on his other projects of the likes of: PatrickL (Spring 2016 will see released "Godlesstate 1", the first album under this moniker), Schrage Musik and Godlesstate. "One Mans Hel", then, will be the last album containing unreleased or new songs by 6Comm. Released as a six panel digipack with an 8 pages booklet containing lyrics and photos, the album contains eleven tracks written during the 1984-2015 period and never released before under this form. The album is reflecting how the project was sounding live during the last three years and it's musically split into three parts. The first part is made of four songs rhythmically driven which sound really powerful, thanks to pounding drums and bass. "One Mans Hel", "Angel Scream", "Red Cloak" and "Othila" sound angry and energetic and, the latter one, almost "rock", thanks to guitar arpeggios and distorted guitar riffs. I think that probably the lyrics focused on war and religion needed such atmospheres and they work really well. The second part is opened by a classic Death In June "Nada" song here revisited: "Doubt To Nothing", here is called "Doubt To Death" and it's sounding intimate and heartbreaking. Male and female vocals duet on a piano/strings background while the drum lines little by little are doubled just to end into a grand finale which slowly ends into silence. "What Time Is It", is sounding experimental and its looping synth droning sounds function as a background for layers of treated vocals, hisses and nightmarish atmospheres. "Kalashnikov Vodka Bar Mix" is a nice rework of "Kalashnikov Is My Friend", track coming from "Headless". This version is more focused on percussions and the different elements are better balanced. "Rosewood Cuts" alternates ambient synth sounds with Easter folk ballads atmospheres, creating, in this way, a particular dreamy effect where the lyrics sound like a poem ("You and we are lost / We'll find our kingdom at some cost / Our way is blocked by shiny things safe all locked / you want a taste of what you have been waiting for / The ring you kissed beneath the goats foot tail / Awaiting those finest thingstake your harvest from the woods"). "This Must Be Love" is another track which is sounding like a dreamy trip in balance from spoken word and a lysergic atmospheres. The last two songs, are forming the third part of the lot and have an acoustic arrangement. The effect created by the passionate way of singing the lyrics and the acoustic elements dueting on "Twisted Love" and "Dream 39" made me feel dizzy and immerse into a fluffy cloud. A nice thing about the photos of the booklet: the one you find on the first page, reveals how the "Content With Blood" cover born as, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the image reflected into the water is what Patrick used for cover. This, maybe, is only a way to close the circle and to go on with renewed energy. Only a note: reading my review you could think that the album is a collection of found tracks gathered here only to greet 6Comm, well, let me say that "One Mans Hel" doesn't sound nothing like that, as it sounds like an inspired album where Patrick wanted to experiment and succeeded into creating a convincing album full of fresh ideas. So long 6Comm and thanks for all the years of passion and music!
Artist: Pietro Riparbelli (@)
Title: Vacuum
Format: CD
Label: Dirter Promotions (@)
Rated: *****
After his latest conceptual efforts, most notably the cathedral series of release, Pietro Riparbelli returns to the format of a proper album with a cohesive release planned as a single piece in six parts. The concept of vacuum is a complex one as it's related to the absence of perceptive experiences as gravity or resonances and also to the human condition of solitude.
The quiet noises of "Senza forma" which could be field recordings or object are doubled by a slowly moving synth line vaguely reminiscent of an old OST as it uses sounds which, for historic reason, are related to some old sci-fi movie, a genre based on the concept of void. In the first part of "Primo percorso" the role of the noises and the synth is reversed as the sample is in the foreground and the synth is in the background while the second part of the track features only the synth. "Distacco" is based on the strong reverb of the musical elements and this creates the sense of being immersed in an empty place. "Deserto meraviglioso" juxtaposes lines of synth and "Emanazione" further develops this direction until it border the field of some kosmische musik but with a stronger sense of the psychological element rather than the space one. "Secondo percorso" closes this release with the return of the radio signal that was central in past Riparbelli's releases so it creates a link with them.
This album shows a narrative element that was absent in previous releases by this artist and, with the use of synth, marks the beginning of a new musical phase. In times when music is consumed in small song bits, it's a release that has to be listened in full and this means something really important: it was planned prior to be performed. An impressive release.
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