Music Reviews



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Artist: Sist En 343 (@)
Title: J20-20
Format: 3" MiniCD
Label: Debila (@)
Rated: *****
I really like 3' CDs. They give you a short taste of music that has to stand as a unified whole. You can't really try out too many ideas in 20 minutes or less. This offering from the Slovenian duo Sist En 343 is a great example of quickly getting down to business. As the cacophony fades in, you get a sense of what you are after: harsh, unrelenting noise. Rumbling low end noise, a circuit bent toy keyboard, computer noise from a 2600 baud modem, and the recorder that you used to play in 4th grade all thrown together into a blender. As it slowly fades away, you are aware of just how loud it was for a while. Good stuff for the harsh noise set. This album weighs in at 15:43 minutes and is limited to 100 copies.
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Artist: Trio Vopá (@)
Title: Chartreuse
Format: CD
Label: Nurnichtnur (@)
Rated: *****
Trio Vopá consists of Roland Spieth on trumpet, Cornelius Veit on Guitar, and Axel Haller on bass. Not that you would be able to tell with these compositions. When I put this on, I settled in for some experimental jazz, but the opening track, 'Whirr,' was a beautiful drone piece that was rather soothing. Of course this was only a pretense to put you on edge as 'Din' kicked in with a spastic, jittery track that will set the other pole for this disc. In the middle of these extremes is 'Seep,' a minimal track that you have to turn way up just to hear. Over the course of this album, Trio Vopá lurches their way between these extremes, scratching and clawing at their instruments until the original source is unrecognizable ('Filtrate') only to return to pleasant drone ('Glint') again. This is not noise music, but it is certainly noisy in many parts. Overall, this was well constructed improvisation and quite enjoyable. This album weighs in at around 42 minutes.
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Artist: The Department
Title: Alpha
Format: CD
Label: Hard Cell Records
Rated: *****
The Department is a duo from London (Rob Green) and Gothenburg (Magnus Lindstrom). It is a relatively new band (2012) but the guys are clearly much more experienced than this. For instance Rob Green used to make progressive house in 90s and he worked as a DJ in several clubs. This is just to say that, although this is a debut, these guys are not inexperienced. And as a matter of fact the debut 'Alpha' is a well played album. But let's start from the beginning. The Department is a band clearly inspired by classical electro and new/dark wave. As Rob himself admits, they clearly stands on the shoulders of giants such as early Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths, Soft Cell, New Order. However, they are a particularly interesting mix and they have plenty of peculiarities. These guys are incredibly good in arranging songs, they know how to choose a good bass or a good lead, to make a good lines and, moreover, they are very good in structuring songs. Finally, there are also songs with commercial potential, such as 'Not for you' and 'As if transformed'. Overall, I think that 'Alpha' is a damn good album, and we will hear about The Department very soon.
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Artist: Günter Schickert / Pharoah Chromium (@)
Title: OXTLR
Format: 3 x 12" vinyl
Label: Grautag (@)
Rated: *****
The eighth ring on Nicolas Moulin's label Grautag comes from two brilliant sound artists of German musical scene. Gunter Schickert could be considered one of the men behind the curtains of German krautrock scene since late 60'ies and first 70ies: he was one of the first guitar player which played a style that got widely known as "echo guitar", mainly based on sort of loops of repeated notes and overdubs, which was extensively used by many krautrockers. Even if his technique and his style were not so different from the ones of Achim Reichel and Manuel Gottsching of Ash Ra Tempel, his two best solo recordings, "Samtvogel" and "Uberfallig" (recently re-released by Bureau B label), have been deservedly rediscovered during Internet age. He splits this record with German-Palestinian musician and performer Ghazi Barakat, another brilliant sound artist, whose Pharaoh Chromium project (named after a song of the band Chrome) draws inspiration from free jazz, ancient past and near future rituals, science fiction novels and radical architecture groups like Italian Superstudio and Archizoom as well as by the sonorities of the psychedelic avant-garde of the 70ies, the industrial bands of the early 80ies and middle-far east nuances that got performed by Ghazi, who usually wears a golden mask on live stage, by a wide set of ethnic flutes and electronic devices. They already met in the mid-eighties in West Berlin, but Barakat discovered the similarities of his style to Schickert's approach just after he listened to a re-release of the above-mentioned "Samtvogel" in 2010 so that many discussions about possible collaborative works followed. Then Barakat introduced Schickert to Nicolas Moulin in order to release some of his recent outputs as well as the first fruits of their collaboration an that's how this release was born and what should have been a douple lp became a triple lp featuring two very long bicephalous tracks. Most of the compotional ideas are quite simple, but both the iterations which dig into listener's psyche little by little, and the "ritual" halo of each track, which could infer many reviewers to label it as a dark-ambient release, require immersive listening sessions in order to enjoy them: the slow flutes, the sneaking circles of a synth-brass and the gradual electronic wrapping on the initial "Bamiyan", which last 22 minutes and 22 seconds, evoke the images of the "executed" statue of the Buddhas of Bamiyan that got dynamited by Taliban icnoclasm, while the sinister tolling and the oppressive echoed sonic entites of the following "Campfire" are the elements which get closer to the so-caled dark-ambient. The almost orchestral parade of heavy echoes, ghostly drones and resounding guitars on "A6" reaches the highest hypnotical peaks of the release by means of tonal stonewalls that seem to evaporate whenever they got erected and vaguely resound on the amniotic buoyancy of the entrancing "Katharsis", where some listener could perceive some resemblances with Starts of The Lid. Such a feeling of amniotic floatation keeps on wrap listener on the awesome space-walking of "Galaktik Debris" - the first collaborative track by Barakat and Schickert-, where your eardrums could meet many strange objects in the thich layer of stardust, including guitars which are in between U2-like intro and Eastern chords. Last but not least, the final collaborative track 'Music D'Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud' where I guess Ghazi and Gunter made a really interesting imaginary score for Louis Malle's noir movie "Ascenseur pour l'echafaud"...not an easy task if you consider that the OST of the movie was an ad hoc jam session by Miles Davis...
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Artist: Foils Quartet
Title: The Jersey Lily
Format: CD
Label: Creative Sources (@)
Rated: *****
This avalanche in the canyon of free jazz comes from a musical liaison between Germany and UK, the favourable meeting between the excellent wind Berlin-based duo by Frank Paul Schubert, whose empathy with his soprano saxophone and the other elements of the band has a dynamite shape on this record, and Matthias Muller on trombone, and John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (a real octopus on drums!), two brilliant improvisers from the vibrant English scene. This fourtet gave rise to two impressive sessions of so instinctively head-banging and constantly spinning free-jazz that you might wonder what kind of power pill they swallowed to blast their musical energy: the two impressive sessions on "The Jersey lily" - "Eddie's Flower" and "Amaryllis Belladonna"...two clear references together with the title of this release to Lille Langtry, the most beatiful European woman according to Oscar Wilde's words...an opinion which could be reasonably agreed by King Edward VII, maybe the most important and "earnest" (!) of her many suitors - sometimes sound like a proper battle between the two duets (Bass Vs Drums and Trombone Vs Soprano Saxophone!), which scrambled their instruments by means of an overwhelming roller coaster of sounds, techniques and musical scuffles for more than 75 incendiary minutes that got recorded live on April 2nd 2013 at The Lily Langtry Room, Lamp Tavern, Birmingham, UK by Christopher Trent.
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