Music Reviews



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Artist: OZmotic / Fennesz (@)
Title: AirEffect
Format: CD
Label: Folk Wisdom/SObject
Rated: *****
Before the first listening of this awesome collaborative project by Christian Fennesz - he doesn't really need any introduction - and OZmotic, the Turin-based electronic and instrumental duo by percussionist, composer, performer and sound designer SmZ and saxophone player and phycisist (specializing in tonal analysis and architectural and environmental acustics) Stanislao Lesnoj, whose scientific approach to sound as well as his jazz studies resound from his declension of music, I haven't read anything about its concept and my mind was broght into a sort of interstitial limbo, where a bunch of snippets from real worlds running in parallel to electronic pricks whirled around a saxophone, whose phrasing lied in between meditation and sullenness and could let you think of yourself as a sort of invisible observer into the fold and the wrinkles of mankind and occasional escapes towards sheltering metaphysical gardens, even if I can't find a position or a specific role to that kind of mocking walrus that can be heard on "Anthropocene". Such an "illusion" could be somehow fostered by the interesting strategies by which OZmotic grabbed sounds in their hometown Turin: contact and hydrophonic miks got placed in unusual places in order to grab the unperceivable vibrations or even the "perception" of thins like the riverbed of Po, the stone of a bridge or the wire of a tram. All these sounds they grabbed got inserted into their sonic bleeding, where jazzy elements got integrated to electronic textures, effected guitar-driven and electronic soundscapes, hypnotical dub movements and deranged detournament, that dramatically renders the conditions of post-modern mankind which has not find the right balance between nature and technology yet. The way they imagined and rendered the content of a black box from the so-called Anthropocene (a term which got widely used by essaysts like ecologist Stoermer and atmospheric chemist Crutzen to refer to a supposed epoch when the impact on our planet's ecosystems was widely influenced by human activities), where the disquieting collage of a grazed herd of goats (or humans?), voices from adverts, a yelling merchant and answering machines on "LiquidMrkt" or the feeling of asphyxia and confused turmoil that most moments seem to mirror ("Clone 15.26", "Run To Ruin") could be congruent with such a metaphysical journey which is other than transient. The final "Epilogo" sounds like the rising vision of that forthcoming moment when all those entities in the previous stages of the journey become parts of an hidden message of hope and atonement...
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Artist: Suspicion Breeds Confidence (@)
Title: Tand
Format: CD
Label: Attenuation Circuit (@)
Rated: *****
Named after one of the bizarre slogan of the likewise bizarre dictatorship in Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil - inspired by Orwell's "1984" -, Suspicion Breeds Confidence is the alias that Frankfurt-based sound artist Tobias Schmitt gave to his electronic artifacts. Its title "Tand", an obsolete German word to mean little nice but useless objects (generally referred to basic toys for children or junk jewelry), as well as the sarcastic titles of its tracks could be both deceiptful and meaningful, if you carefully listen to the flotsam and jetsam that he let float in his sonic pond: my favorite titles are "Although His Leadership Was Brutal His Death Was Deeply Mourned" that he gave to a track where he matched the session of an hypnotist to singed interferences, corrugated metallic sounds, which reminds the act of descaling a toilet tank -!- and one of those fluffy carpet-like pad-synth that your eardrum could meet in those therapy music gimcrack cd in the office of an osteopath or in a massage parlour before the whole track become more and more "claustrophobic", "The Rather Surprising Dishonesty of The Opium Mining Company", the abstract collage of ghostly whispering, soughing background noises, metallic hits that could surmise the noises from the water pipes - it makes sense if you saw the above-mentioned movie Brazil -, or "The Gentrification Of Babylon", the title he matched to one of the spookiest moment of this album, where a set of vanishing voices resurfaces from an expanding foggy sound as if they are clues of stifling or confused memories that some advertiser inoculated into subconscious world in order to generate shell-shocks. Likewise Gilliam, it will sound clear while listening to the sonic stuff that poured into "Tand" that Tobias seems to have penchant for grotesque deformation and a certain surreal hypertrophy of his sonic collages could sound more "extant" than any other unmeaningful info-particles that chaotically float around and flood our senses.
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Artist: SPUNK & Joëlle Léandre (@)
Title: Live in Molde
Format: CD
Label: +3dB Records
Rated: *****
Another wonderful release from the surprising Nordic improvisational scene immortalized one of those mixing that could only be sparkling, the collaborative performance of Spunk, the female quartet that the brilliant vocal performer Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje joined together by involving Kristin Andersen (trumpet, flutes), Lene Grenager (cello) and Hild Sofie Tafjord (French horn, electronics), and the iconic double bass player Joelle Leandre, that got held at Moldejazz Festival on July 20th 2011. The recording has been splitted in six moments: my favorite ones are the three collaborative parts, where the first sounds like a reciprocal exorcism within storms of sneaking tones, vocals which perpetually roll over moments of abstract joy, exstasy, paroxysm and rage, a double-bass which sounds like coiling around disjointed instrumental phrases, the second - one of the most amazing moment of the whole recording - renders a sort of musical tormented sleeping (heavy snoring included!) and an encore at the end of the recording, where they seem to produce sonic resin which frustrate any possible movement of each instrument, while Kristin uses her trumpet like a sort of whip against angry Furies. The sparkle of the two solo tracks by Joelle, which sound like a set of primers for a soul on fire, got counterbalanced by the solo performance by SPUNK, who seem to render the caring assuaging of the screaming wounds that Joellle lets ideally bleed. Joelle herself expressed her own admiration for the female super-group that get aside her art on the occasion of Moldejazz performance: "SPUNK is rare. As a group they have a unique strngth in the fact that all members move freely between roles as performers, improvisers and composers. SPUNK's music is poetic, responsible and free at the same time".
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Artist: Melanchoholics (@)
Title: Solar Cafe
Format: CD
Label: Eibon Records (@)
Rated: *****
Melanchoholics was a trio from Dusseldorf, Germany consisting of minimal guitars, low-end bass and lo-fi electronica. Their goal was to create slow, impressive soundscapes. They began in 2001, releasing a couple of CDs, an EP and some soundtracks over their course of existence. Unfortunately, guitarist Benedikt died not long after the completion of the recording of this album, so 'Solar Cafe' is their swan song as Philip (bass) and Lutz (electronics) have chosen to carry on making music under the name Minus1One. This is the first recording I've heard from Melanchoholics, so my review is untainted by any prior exposure.

At the outset on "Rotten City Radio" you can tell it's going to be an experimental sort of thing. Some slidey, descending guitar loop, soft, reverberating explosive sounds, a sporadic dialogue sample, electronics, and stray, struck guitar notes all combine to form some kind of amorphous industrial atmosphere. "Adam Dunkel" begins as a low drone four-note piece before noisier elements creep in making for a lethargic industrial soundscape. "Paranoia Lodge" is another crawling ambient piece featuring vocals (the spoken kind) by Arthur Walser Rosar and Miss Ada. It is predominantly placid, interspersed with laconic guitar chords. Vocals are creepy and dreamy, giving the track a semi-nightmarish quality. "Hiring Beared Women" (ever heard of a more peculiar name for track?) is low rumbling ambience over which electronically processed guitar intermittently improvises. It has a slight shoegazer quality to it. Title track "Solar Cafe" sounds like it could be the opening to a Pink Floyd album that was never released...just a kind of ambience, no rock. "Presence of Absence" has the heartbeat of some primordial monster, wind, and some gentle ethereal guitar improvisation. It must have been the combination of the wind and guitar that reminded me a bit of the beginning of Pink Floyd's "One of These Days". "The End Belongs to the World" is an ambient drone piece that gets noisy for a spell a couple of times, also with some malevolent whispers. Nuclear Welfare" continues the trend of ambient-industrial soundscape interspersed with noisy elements and sparse guitar improvisation. Final track, "Minus1One", another industrial drone piece, has much more of Benedikt's guitar in it than I expected; a somewhat melodic melancholy outro with more conventional musicality on the guitar's part.

Melanchoholics have come up with a really unusual album in 'Solar Cafe', and one worth a listen or three. Minimal, yet they manage to pack a lot into it. Obviously they will not be the same without Benedikt, but it should be interesting to hear what Philip and Lutz come up with as Minus1One. Available on CD or 12" vinyl.
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Artist: Red Sun Revival (@)
Title: Identities
Format: CD
Label: Echozone (@)
Rated: *****
'Identities' is the second full-length album by London-based gothic rock/darkwave group Red Sun Revival led by vocalist/guitarist Rob Leydon, with guitarist Matt Helm, bassist Panos Theodoropoulos, violinist/backing vocalist Christina Emery and Simon Rippin on drums. Sam Morrison guests on keyboards on one track (The Condemned, Part 1"). Not long ago I reviewed the band's interim EP, 'Embers', and while I found it to be pretty good, Leyden's voice was a bit too raspy for me, and sounded strained in places. I'm happy to say any similarity to Carl McCoy has been left miles behind down the road and Leydon's really come into his own on this album. The band is stronger, tighter, more powerful and cohesive than before. On 'Identities' Panos Theodoropoulos shares writing credits with Leydon as well, and this partnership really kicks the music up a notch or two. The lush orchestration of every number on the album makes Red Sun Revival unique in the gothic/darkwave genre, and although I'm still getting shades of An Also The Trees, it's really much different. Leydon's emotionally moving vocals and lyrics are the key to the identity of this band, and Stephen Carey's production and mix allows the band to reach its fullest potential- a skillful blend of passion and pathos wrapped in a shimmering, euphonious package with an abundance of style.

It's hard to pick a standout track on 'Identities' as they're all really good. One of my favorites though is "Fade In Time", where everything comes together just perfectly, and Christina's violin soars. "Mistakes", which appeared on the 'Embers' EP sounds as is it has
a much better mix than on the EP, although it could be my imagination. (The previous arrangement sounded a little mushy.) RSR really show how much they've grown on the tracks "The Condemned Parts, 1 & 2" treading into the prog-rocky realm of Pink Floyd, and claiming it as their own turf, with Helm's guitar leading the charge. If you're looking for a new album that will really grow on you and stand the test of time in the gothic/darkwave genre, then Red Sun Revival's 'Identities' is surely it. These folks are certainly the crème de la crème as they've poured their hearts, souls and skills into making it just so. That
"knockout" I implied the band was capable of at the end of my review of 'Embers' has surely been delivered.
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