Music Reviews

Artist: Angelina Yershova
Title: CosmoTengri
Format: CD + Download
Label: Twin Paradox Records
Established Kazakh composer Yershova has a strong list of collaborations under belt and has worked with symphony orchestras, However this release is entirely her own work, with Yershova credited as writer, recording artist, producer, mixer and masterer of her own destiny here, in an album that sounds close and introspective, but which avoids sounding small. The result is an incredibly versatile showcase for a multi-talented artist, with a lot of breadth of moods and styles.

Opener “Korgau” (for which there is a YouTube video) is an expansive work of scratchy and discordant string with an old-school experimental feel, supplemented by thick damp-sounding atmospherics and very sparse use of vocal chords, and it truly shines and is understandably the album’s lead.

It’s not averse to a bit of rhythm either. “Tumbleweed” introduces a lovely sparsely-laid rubbery bass note, and some familiar-sounding curt electronic glitch-click rhythms that don’t feel particularly original but which integrate well. The heartbeat and whispered vocalisations of “Kamlanie” that unfold into more urgent-sounding electronic rhythms definitely feel ‘done before’ but are nevertheless well handled. After that, “Jelsiz Jel” takes a decidedly modern trip-hop twist, before the title track hybridises organic instrumentation that teeters onto ‘world music’ with mellow drone atmospherics. This mood flows smoothly into “Khan Tengri” which brings shades of dark electronica and just a shade of what is possibly throat-singing into the mix for something darker and more suspenseful, before final track “Ecstatic Dance” channels quite a strong gaming-style sense of underscored drama.

As a curriculum vitae for film score, compositional or production work it is exemplary. And almost as a bonus, it works pretty well as a listening album too, bringing forth thoughts of soundtracks to picture and long-form story-telling. An album with real character.
Artist: Mark Vernon (@)
Title: Magneto Mori: Kilfinane
Format: Tape
Label: Canti Magnetici (@)
Rated: *****

Mark Vernon is a Glasgow-based artist whose work is inspired by the experience of radiophonic listening as an acoustic experience. "Memento Mori" is based on a vision of tape as a storage for memory so "Kilfinane" is the name of an Irish mountain town and the sounds where recorded there. The constructivist aspect of this composition is highlighted by the fact that the recordings were cut and spliced into the piece in random order so the listening experience is free from a narrative aspect. To further add an element of fragmentation the tape was buried to obtain a degraded sound which have a dialectic with the clean digital recordings which are the other element of this opus.
The first side of tape, called "unadorned" is made out of field recordings of the town and the result of the editing and the process is a sort of dialogue between the clean voices, presumably digitally recorded, and the dirty recordings of the everyday sounds so a sort of nostalgia for a place which emerges as a memory appears to the listener. The other side, called "embellished", is based upon radio archives so it covers, according to the liner notes, almost twenty years of the town history; while it could have been predicted as more verbose than the first side, it's instead sonically more elaborated than the first side as it almost features no dialogues and the field recordings from the community events creates the impressing than it was a more lively place than it is now.
A rather impressive work which requires a certain imagination from the listener to figure the criterion of the choice of the fragment and these days is important that an artist remind to the audience that we record thing as an aid to memory not to exhibit them on a social. Recommended.
Artist: m1nk (@)
Title: m1nk = em one en kay
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Seja Records (@)
Rated: *****
Man, it's been a really long time since I've heard any good, new trip hop music, and while m1nk's debut album (the title of which is to get you to pronounce their name correctly, instead of calling them "mink") isn't exactly classic trip hop, it's still downtempo and noirish enough to be genre receptive, and remind you of the best things such as Portishead, Massive Attack, Anne Clark, Bowery Electric and the like. Erika Bach's voice slithers snake-like coiling in the darker recesses of your brain while Barry Snaith's instrumental Pandora's box unleashes all manner of strange in a soundscape you can't escape. There are times Erika's voice is just so Beth Gibbons, but her lost soul persona wanders in terrain far darker than Gibbons' milieu. One of the tracks on the album is titled "Psycho Erotic," (third track, actually) but that could be applied to the music on this album in general. Most of the music (instrumental portion) is more atmosphere than any traditionally defined music form, but that's what makes it work so well. You might be able to dance to some of it in a hipster, Audrey Horne, Twin Peaks roadhouse sort of way, but it's more conducive to an opioid stupor (not that I'm promoting that sort of thing; neither are they I imagine) than any potentially strenuous activity. Erika Bach (aka Lola Demo) is from Ithaca (Greece, not New York) and Barry Snaith is from Wakefield, UK, but they sound like they could be from anywhere...Soho NYC, Berlin, Paris, Slovenia, wherever, that has a passion for the underground. As slow as this stuff moves (and it is very downtempo and sloooowww) the ten tracks over 47 minutes go so fast you'll wonder where the time went. It is rare that a debut album is so deviously, perfectly delicious that it shoots to the top of my chart like a carnival high-striker, but 'm1nk = em one en kay' is such an animal.

UPDATE: When I originally posted this review I though the format was CD & download (likely because what they sent me was a CD, but it's actually Limited edition (300) VINYL (12") and download, with a bonus CD added with a vinyl purchase. This is sort of better in my estimation because vinyl definitely trumps CD, but you get the CD anyway. You just can't loose, and since this is as good as it is, I wouldn't expect stock to last very long.
Artist: Massergy (@)
Title: Fire Opal
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Massergy is the project name of Eric Jensen, based in Austin Texas, and 'Fire Opal' is his debut album on Spotted Peccary. This may be a case of the recording process being as interesting as the music, for Massergy produced this album entirely without the use of computers, sequencers or plug-ins, using hardware synths only and acoustic guitar (and maybe some electric as well), and not only that- recorded and mixed the entire album outdoors- at night no less! (Hmmm...floodlights or tiki torches I wonder...) How's that for melding electronic-ambient with nature! Jensen says he shares his recording environment with coyotes, owls, deer, and other creatures (of the night I guess), and not only that, it was recorded under whatever weather conditions prevailed. (I'm guessing downpours and Texas twisters were out for practical reasons.) The music over the 7 tracks totaling 70 minutes is predominantly new age ambient, but that's not a bad thing as Jensen manages to avoid the clichés the genre is often subject too. In spite of the flashiness of the title, the majority of the music on the album is placid and low key. It's languid, lazy and contemplative, and despite being played/recorded at night, it doesn't conjure strictly nocturnal images. It could well be a sunny or rainy afternoon, a cloudy dawn, or a majestic sunset. The opening piece "Vinesong" is the closest thing resembling a song with some structure by the acoustic guitar. "The Shepherdess' has seemingly sequenced/arpeggiated notes that you're going to have a hard time believing weren't programmed into a sequencer, but there is a more natural feel to them than if they were. That takes a good amount of skill and discipline. There is an improvisational feel, yet purposeful drive to Massergy's compositions and a light touch prevails throughout. Without straying too far afield Massergy provides just enough sonic diversity to keep your attention but not overwhelm you. The 17:17 title track is a bit darker and denser than the others and weaves an aura of mystery. The one thing most listeners should agree on though is that 'Fire Opal' is a very relaxing, tranquil and meditative album, perhaps just the thing needed after a stressful day in the real world. For a debut album, it's a wonder.

Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Bleeps, Beats & Bass 2
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Basserk
The second in the compilation series from constantly reliable Amsterdam label Basserk is another rich pack of almost-entirely-instrumental house, electro and danceable techno that stays just on the right side of wonky and looks out across the view.

There’s an intriguing music-as-product concept behind it, with QR codes linking to every track, meaning for example that you’ll be able to buy your favourite track as a sweatshirt. I can’t vouch for the quality of the shirt manufacture of course, but big chunks of this are serious dancing music, so a lighter, more breathable T-shirt may be required as well...

Musically, it’s a pack with no filler, stacked with potential DJ weapons. There’s the infectious bounce of Sjamsjoedin’s “Corners”, the bright alt-disco clapping of Heart Space’s “Move Aside”, or the breathy, semi-glitched groove of highly-regarded LHISPR’s little track “Closer” that bypasses your higher thought patterns and makes you dance like a robot.

It’s bookended by “Passw123” by Full Monty at one end and “Modderpoel” by Maanwagen at the other, both breezy stepping grooves reminiscent of Luke Vibert tracks, that cheekily imply they’re about to break out into full-verse rap tracks but never do. The former is a definite highlight that’s earned its pole position on the compilation, that one’s getting repeat plays here for sure.

There are also broodier and more introspective pieces for headphone-centric listening. Xyloglotte’s “McKlatchey”- a track you’ll never be able to verbally ask Siri or Alexa to play- rumbles with a gentle kick-led broken beat under counterplaying layers of squeaky synths, while Radio Parkplatz’s “Wormshop” brings a bit of urgency through relentless synth bass notes and gliding siren-like arpeggios that slightly recall a Juhl Krøse track or two.

HuSo’s “Tome” is one of those 150bpm-ish tracks with dubbier, half-speed top layers where your body can be shuffling frantically to the slightly jungle-ish beats at 150 while your head chills out at 75.

Kraz’s “Shelter” stands out, not solely for the fact it has a full sung verse-and-chorus vocal on it- with a gravelly, Jan Burton, Rob Dougan-ish affair over a slow beat and synths that seem to want to be guitars, it definitely draws the attention. Baptist’s “Nothing Left” leading into Tholyson’s “Fou Amoureux”- the latter with an extremely OMD-ish synth lead line- form ‘the synthwave section’ towards the tail of the release.

It’s hard to argue with the title of this release. High-quality bleeps, variety in the beats and a tastebud-wetting variety of squelchy bass sounds are on offer. It’s a strong pack with just the right amount of twist.
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