Music Reviews



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Artist: Tashaki Miyaki (@)
Title: The Dream
Format: CD
Label: Metropolis (@)
Rated: *****
I'm not a great fan of that mixture of shoegazing and dream pop that someone named dreamgaze, to be honest, but there are some amazing details in the style of Los Angeles-based singer and musician Tashaki Miyaki that manage to boost the canons of the genre. Those canons are still there: the plain popsicle of quickly sliding pop rhythmical patterns, a set of dual guitars, one sustaining the chords of the other, a lollipop of schmaltzy melodies, a lulling pace that sometimes brushes against the backcombed style of 50ies American female singers or 60ies Americana country-folk ones. Some songs are the ones that you could expect coming after giving a kick against an old jukebox, but the way her dream (to reprise the aptly forged title) melts various elements by means of some slight distortion on the guitar, the guessed effects of her candied vocals that adds some shirring on a stream, sounding so fluid that her dream could become yours, some unexpected hiccoughs of the sound (such the distorted lead guitars on songs like "City" or "Get It Right") and the strange beauty of their fusion with the angelic serendipity evoked by Taskaki's voice could let you surmise that that juke-box fallen down the sky after getting kicked by a furious angel. Such a description could have been influenced by the catchy intro and outro of L.A.P.D., where the makers of this selection of Ms Miyaki's more or less recent outputs injected something lysergic that could vaguely resemble the ephedrine atmosphere of Amorphous Androgynous's "Slo-Mo" in a more orchestral sauce.
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Artist: Ragnar Grippe
Title: Sand
Format: LP
Label: Dais Records
This is the first time after its original release back in 1977 that Ragnar Grippe's "Sand" has been reissued. Available in 300 black and 200 blu vinyl copies, "Sand" is divided in two parts that are forming a 50' long minimal percussive/synth suite. It's useful always to put things in context and the label's bio is helping a lot. Grippe was asked to compose a piece that was to be played during the Sand painting exhibition and was then to be released on Shandar in 1977. This release would be the first official album that would start Grippe’s career as a modern avant-garde composer and electronic musician. Originally trained as a classical cellist, Grippe had relocated to Paris in the early 70’s to study at the famous Groupe de Recherches Musicales (more commonly known as GRM and if you read French, there's a great book written by Evelyne Gayou, one of the member of the group, titled "Le GRM groupe de recherches musicales : Cinquante ans d'histoire") founded by musique concrete pioneers Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry and Jacques Poullin. Think that also Jean-Michel Jarre joined the group in 1969 fascinated by their theories about sound. Grippe became close friend with French avant-garde minimalist Luc Ferrari. and it was under his direction and guidance that the young Grippe started to build a shared experimental music studio, named l’Atelier de la Liberation Musicale (ALM), in which Ferrari shared his knowledge and instrumental supplies, thus forging Grippe’s implementation of harmonic tone within the confines of musique concrete. After a brief stint of electronic music study at McGill University in Montreal, Grippe returned to Paris in 1976 to compose with Ferrari at the now fully-realized ALM studio. One of the visiting artists passing through the creative epicenter of the Cite Internationale des Arts during this time was the painter Viswanadhan Velu. Velu’s recent works consisted of various Sand paintings which were to be exhibited at the Galerie Shandar, the avant-garde art gallery and home to the Shandar record label which was the home to minimalist composers Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Cecil Taylor and Charlemagne Palestine. As I was initially saying, the piece is divided into two parts: the first one has layers of delayed hit objects (wooden and metal ones) are mixed with simple synth melodies which are almost sounding casual, while the second one starts with a similar rhythmic approach but on the background the synth lines are more ambient like. Here and there sax or clarinet notes come and go as well as guitar ones. Little by little improvised synth arpeggios appear reaching the main place in the sound palette just to stop abruptly at nine minutes from the end where we're back at the initial approach of delayed percussion with synth drones. The track fades out slowly leaving you still "stoned". If you are into minimal and experimental music, you should definitely try this one.
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Artist: Oiseaux-Tempête
Title: Al-'An!
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Sub Rosa
Oiseaux-Tempête’s latest album is sonically ambitious, fusing their French shoegaze and post-rock sensibilities with an array of guest musicians, substantially recorded in Beirut and with a range of Middle Eastern flavours. Combined with multilingual found sounds and with a raw feel to the effects, diversity is at the core of this album.

However some of this ethnic variety is a better fit for the languid tone than others. While pieces like “Electrique Résistance” are definite successes, evocative modern moods with expert careful use of sound effects, tracks like “Mish Aaref Eish W Leish” feel a stretch too far, with a tempo just too slow to sustain the almost poppy vocal. Some of the shorter pieces, many under four minutes, feel like experiments or diversions that didn’t get properly concluded, but it’s the subtle segueing between tracks that justifies their inclusion.

Sometimes it’s the simpler pieces that make more sense- “Ya Layl, Ya 3aynaki” is a relatively classic bit of drone structure, with warm ebbing hum-and-strum that is on safe ground and works well. “Carnaval”, structured around an alarming saw-toothed synth loop with slow-stepping building arrangement surrounding it, is bold and confident in its use of the plaintive vocal as a form of interlude from the electronic relentlessness. The almost jazzy tones of “Feu Aux Frontières” are a highlight.

“Through The Speech Of Stars” is a standalone seventeen-minute track that’s quite a different beast from the rest of the album. The emphasis is closer to post-rock here, stabbing bass guitar notes and slowly accelerating drums underpinning a slightly indulgent distorted lead guitar that meanders around a five note melodic core. After temporarily fading to nothing, a long spoken-word English language poem is an extended interlude before the band reform for a Resonance Association-like second phase and crescendo.

It’s an impressive multicultural mélange but there’s something about the overall product which somehow doesn’t seem to achieve its full potential.
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Artist: Jonas Kesper Jensen
Title: Layers Of Bridges
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
“Layers Of Bridges” is a set of barren computer-generated sonic landscapes. It’s a relatively established arrangement of digital hums and unnaturally long reverbs, counter-playing tones and wave synthesis. While the track names have an architectural theme, sonically this is open, near-empty space.

Each of the seven tracks is exactly 5:30, and most fade in and out, as though each environment is infinite but 330 seconds is the permitted visiting time. Each environment is relatively static- there’s a faint degree of evolution within pieces like “Thru Arch” but for the most part it’s eventless.

“Stay Girder” opens with a repeating piano note that suggests the arrival of new structure, but the reverb and layering soon degenerates the note into a sonic bath that fits the rest of the pieces; imagine “I Am Sitting In A Room” based on a single piano note rather than the spoken word.

The exception to this format is the fifth track “Culvert”, which is a discordant and unsettling loop of electronics with a tense throbbing bass tone. Were it not for this track, and perhaps the distant drilling sound of “Channel Beam”, this release would be going on my ‘music to sleep to’ playlists, but this track is an anachronistic wake-up call.

As a complete work it does fall a little short of distinctive flavour or character but as a surprisingly soporific collection of rigidly prescribed hum soundscapes, it mostly works very well.
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Artist: Esecutori di Metallo su Carta (@)
Title: Histoire du Soldat / Storia di un Soldato
Format: CD
Label: 19'40" (@)
Rated: *****
"Histoire du Soldat / Storia di un Soldato" is a live recording of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's 1918 work with Italian text for seven instruments and narrator and it is the second installment in the subscription-based UK/Italian label 19m40s.
The original piece was premiered in Lausanne Switzerland while the composer lived there in exile and was supposed to be travelling through Europe with an ensemble of 7 musicians in a carriage (the origins of live concert touring maybe?) but due to financial constraints and the Spanish flu it was never performed again while the composer was alive. However it became an important piece in his repertoir that was later played around the world and in particular in French (with the original libretto by CHarles-Ferdinand Ramuz) and in Italian.
Esecutori di Metallo Su Carta, is a fresh collaborative new music ensemble based in Italy but open to outside collaborations and personnel. In this version of the ensemble, its original founder Enrico Gabrielli and Sebastiano De Gennaro play the clarinet and percussions respectively and are joined by Japanese first violinist Yoko Morimyo and four other italian musicians, a conductor and narrator Stefano Panzieri.
The premiere of this piece by this group took place at the "Fuck Bloom! Alban Berg!" festival at Bloom Club in Mezzago and was recorded live in an ex-church .
I suppose if you don't speak Italian this might be a less exciting listening experience (unless it is true, as they say, that italian is a very musical language you can enjoy even if you don't speak it...) but the CD booklet comes with a summary of the libretto as well as some background notes on the composer, the ensemble and the composition.
The CD comes in a beautiful packaging and is limited to 200 hand-numbered copies so if you want one you better head over to the label's website and subscribe to one of their four plans to make sure you get their releases.
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