Music Reviews

Artist: Break
Title: 10 Years fo Symmetry
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Symmetry Recordings (@)
Rated: *****
The best way to celebrate a decade of existence for a label, particularly when it was born as a personal imprint - it rarely happens that such a kind of record label reaches ten years due to the everlastingly changing trends -, is some new celebrative musical drop. Hyperactive Bristolian DJ and producer Charlie Bierman aka Break, a well-known name of drum N bass nb scene, initially planned a simple commemorative compilation (supposedly including a retrospective selection of the previously released material), but his first project soon turned into something else, as he preferred to fill the birthday cake for his brainchild Symmetry records by new (really delicious) material. The only naevus an exaggeratedly zealous analyst could notice is the fact he added two more candles on the cake, as there are 12 tracks instead of harm done, even if the high-quality Break dropped out let many of the included tracks sound more like banging explosives than innocuous candles! Preceded by an album sampler including the delicately banging tune "Give In To Me" written and sung by vocalist and singer Isha Campbell aka Kyo (recent collaborator of Break for the project Degrees Of Freedom) and "Who Got The Funk", amazingly nervous drumfunk track, full of sonic hooks (including some guitar slaps, sampled vocals and elements of the drum kit) to the quoted genre, this release mirrors the remarkably wide range of styles - such a stylistic versatility is one of the statement that got implemented in the previously mentioned project Degrees Of Freedom -, explored over the last 10 years, including the bossa-tinged hyper-chic tune of the opener "If I Could" (featuring Boston and Kyo again on vocals), the revisitation of some features of dub music (particularly some typical sets of echoed voices and delayed percussion layers) in "Overdub", the jazziest breezes of drum N bass blowing on beautiful tunes like "Left Behind", the swirling tribal spirals turning into nicely headbanging DNB fury in the massive song "The Rush" or in the revision of the typical jungle-like Amen break on the final "Not Forgotten" (a title sounding like a devotional tribute to the real roots of drum N bass sound, affecting Break's current sonic explorations). In order to add more versatility and variety to the already variegated sound, there are many collaborative tracks involving well-known names of contemporary scene, including Will Carlton aka MC Fats (voice of the somehow heart-rending "Free Your Mind"), Total Science (co-signers of "Betamax"), Spectrasoul (co-signing the rugged midtempo on "Inside") and DLR, co-remixer of "Slimeville", the talking about slugs by NC-17 and KC, appeared on Symmetry Sessions vol.1.
Artist: Siyanie (@)
Title: Mystery of Life
Format: CD
Label: Moonsun Productions (@)
Distributor: Zhelezobeton
Rated: *****
'Mystery of Life' is the third full-length album by Syanie, the project of Sergey Ilchuk (ex-Vresnit, ex-Vetvei) and Dimitry Shilov (Neznamo, Peal Grim, Magical Things) comprised of material recorded at three live gigs in 2012-13 and completed in the studio 2012-15. Now I've heard and enjoyed Vresnit and Neznamo before, both exponents of the New Russian Ambient Music scene, but Siyanie is new to me. However from the moment I saw this CD I knew I was going to like it. It's cosmic ambient to the max, and nearly 80 minutes of pure aural bliss. A bodacious blend of electro-acoustic environments that you can just let your mind float away with. I especially like the use of sitar that crops up now and then in the music giving a kind of Eastern transcendental flavor. The textures of Siyanie are sublime and ever shifting within their cosmic drones. At times ultra placid, at others mildly intense, it bodes well for a musical trip into a higher state of consciousness. Voices that arise in some pieces sound absolutely other-worldly. The nine tracks (track 9, "Shine If You Will" has three parts) are somewhat lengthy (nothing under 6 minutes) and evolve nicely over time. The grossly overused term "psychedelic" might be applicable in the sense of mind expansion for what the listener may experience with this album, but no drugs are required. Although if I had to equate it with one, it would probably be DMT, although that trip is much more brief than the album, from what I've read. (Never tried it.) If you're looking for an aural equivalent of utopia though, this has to be it. One of the reasons why the album sounds so good is that it was mastered by Sergey Bulychov (Kshatriy), another Russian ambient artist I've reviewed here before. The colorful artwork on this 6-panel CD slipcase is by Sergey Ilchuk and certainly reflects the music. This is one of those albums that really needs to go on your "must have" list, and since it's limited to only 300 copies, I wouldn't wait too long to acquire it.
Artist: Marc Kate (@)
Title: 00
Format: CD + Download
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Unless you are from the San Francisco Bay Area you have probably never heard of Marc Kate. In his career as an artist/musician he has actually done quite a bit though. Originally trained as a filmmaker/visual artist, Kate applies cinematic and conceptual approaches to music and audio production. Among his accomplishments he is the leader of the post-punk band Never Knows and has released solo material on the labels Computer Tapes, Jacktone, Looq, HNYTRX, Trip Show and Treehouse Muzique, and his own imprints - Untitled & After, and Failing Forms. He has collaborated with dark cabaret artist Visantos and pop singer Tim Carr, composed soundtracks for choreographers Monique Jenkinson and Keith Hennessy (Circo Zero), and contributed to the soundtrack of cult horror film 'All About Evil.' He's launched a couple of podcasts (Why We Listen, and Scary Thoughts: Horror Philosophy and Culture), and even more than that. But let's get to the present release '00', an excursion into the world of dark ambient and power ambient.

Kate's description of the music on '00' takes the form of a sociopolitical statement. "I had hoped to create something that would simultaneously hammer against neoliberalism and cut an escape from the despair of its suffocating web. Seven short soundtracks for resistance. Seven songs lost in the confusion of what that resistance looks like." I can appreciate that, especially in music of this genre(s), where so much of it seems amorphous, and just of a general, dystopian, pessimistic nature, or yet another version of a Lovecraftian nightmare. '00' is the follow-up to 'Despairer,' an album in the same genre(s) released by Kate earlier this year. I have listened to some tracks from 'Despairer,' and in comparison '00' is a much angrier and oppressive listen. Where there was a certain amount of subtlety on 'Despairer' (not that there weren't sections that had walls of noise built on distortion and feedback) it has taken a back seat to a more aggressive and hostile environment. Most evident is that 'Despairer' is devoid of any percussion and drums. '00' opens on 'THEY" with the slow, methodical thudding of heavy drums. The music is colder and more sinister. The beast has woken and will not go gently into that good night. Even when passages are sonically minimal there is a pervasive aura of dread and foreboding. One of my favorite track on the album - "Coalition against Death" is pure tribal black metal. It could have gone on twice as long and built to an earsplitting climax and I would have been even happier. Final track on the album "We Weren't Designed to Live Like This" sums up the sentiments in the heaviest march of doom I've heard in a long time.

This is not the kind of ambient you can put on as background music. This is more than just the abyss staring back at you; this is the abyss enfolding and consuming you. And for'll have to take notice.
Artist: Erik Friedlander - Black Phoebe
Title: Rings
Format: CD
Label: Skipstone Records
Rated: *****
I already quoted this amazing project by New York-based accomplished and talented cellist Erik Friedlander, while introducing "Nothing On Earth," Erik's soundtrack for the expedition in Greenland by Mick Abrams and Murray Fredericks. A particular cinematic nuance is listenable in the sound he developed together with Japenese talented musicians Satoshi Takeishi (percussion) and Shoko Nagai (piano, accordion, and electronics) as listeners can readily perceive in some tracks of this newly assembled album, which look like portraits such as the cheeky tango they crafted on the opener "The Seducer", the gentle gipsy riding on "The Risky Business" and the exciting "Flycatcher" or the almost grotesque chamber music scherzo of "A Single Eye", but it's not the main feature. The stylistic adhesive cementing the twelve lovely tracks they recorded in "Rings" is the way the trio build the loop-based composition approach by Erik in each single song, who doesn't sound repetitive at all, due to the varieties of music styles by which Satoshi and Shoko implant during their sonic landscaping. Don't expect anything really super revolutionary, but just some well crafted good music by three brilliantly peppy musicians (not a small thing nowadays). In my opinion, the better way to appreciate this feature is focusing on the repetition on strings by Erik and almost unselfconsciously sink the delicate piano-driven melodies and the likewise sensitive or pleasantly faster tapping on percussions in between vibrant or lazier moments, that could let you imagine Black Phebe were aimed to give a sound to an interstate between fiction and reality for secret admirers of daydreaming, who keep having a head on its shoulders.
Artist: Orphax (@)
Title: As Yet Untitled
Format: Tape
Label: Silken Tofu
Rated: *****
A distorted electric buzz, which wraps what the typical noise of the needle on a vinyl when it reaches the last empty track, opens "Not Yet Titled", the first sidelong suite of this release by Sietse van Erve aka Orphax, coming as a dedication to Jos Smolders, as it seems it got 'based on recordings made for a never finished project for Jos Smolders in 2014'. The voltage of this 19 minutes lasting track gets higher and higher, when Orphax - almost immediately - adds spirals of thrilling sounds, which are close to the ones that many soundtracks use to highlight some frightening peak in a horror movie, and make them gurgling together with other subtle elements and a sinisterly squeaking whisper, which becomes clearly listenable some minutes before the end of the track, as if all of them turn into recipes of a highly corrosive acid soup. The soup I've just imagined could have been fatally mainlined by the organist, who fictitiously opens the title track "As Yet Untitled" by letting collapse his head on the keyboard: well-trained listeners will grab slight tonal variations over its twenty minutes as well as its resemblance to many outputs by Phil Niblock, the composer to them Orphax dedicated this somehow entrancing suite. If you listen to Niblock's "Hurdy Hurry" for instance, "As Yet Titled" could sound like its "phonocopy", rendered by means of gradually piercing higher tones, squeezed by what looks like a processed organ gradually turn to a sort of processed guitar - I could imagine Orphax prerecorded a processed organ and a processed guitar and slowly turning a fader knob to complete such a sonic migration -.
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