Music Reviews

Artist: Noctilucant (@)
Title: Oblivion to You All
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: self-released
Rated: *****
Noctilucant, the dark ambient project of Joseph Mlodik from Wisconsin is back with a new work titled 'Oblivion to You All'. After the excellent debut, 'Back to the Mud' which I reviewed a while ago, Noctilucant will have to raise the bar or lower the water to top that one. 'Oblivion to You All' is a conceptual album of ten tracks set in a
post-apocalyptic world. Beginning with "Introspective Dissolution" Noctilucant sets the stage with deep, rumbling space drones and a recitation by Kara Phillips of the symphonic power metal band Magma Dragon about how the world after its devastation, now without power, and a poisoned water supply has entered an ice age. I'm not big on these narrations (never much cared for any of those Moody Blues spoken word bits) but Kara's voice with what I detect to be an Aussie accent lends a certain sci-fi cred, like a sample lifted out of a movie. This foreboding piece is certainly the harbinger of bad things to come. "This Day Brings Forth Our Destiny" starts with what sounds like a film projector being switched on, then white noise wind in the distance underpinned by a rumbling drone ever drawing closer, then a frozen crystalline ambience that is beautiful in its form, yet terrifying in its isolation. In capturing the audial image of a frozen world, Noctilucant definitely succeeds. "The First Light of Morning" bestows more deep drone rumbling, and gives you the feeling that...something may be out there...but you know not what. "Where Snow Remains and Light Fades" explores the cold isolation a bit more subtly, but is actually far more frightening than the previous track. Here your mind begins to play tricks, and ghostly images of past seem to eerily float around you. There is a sense of activity; possibly some scavenging, foraging. A discovery is made - "The Old Machine Shop" that once produced vital goods now lies dormant as a museum piece, its mechanical song once a paean to an industrious future is now but a rusted relic of the past. "Those Peaceful Days of Our Past?" - where are they now? Do they exist in only fading memory? A vague melody that thrums in the recesses of the brain, a bittersweet reminder of life as it once was, the songs of life that are sung no more. To escape this blighted landscape, I crawl "Back Into the Hole Where I was Born," but there is no comfort there, only pictures of my family that fell victim to this catastrophe. Soon, in despair and death, I too will be gone. It is said, that when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you. The "Devouring
Night" absorbs all into its blackness. It is all-encompassing. There is no escape, no rescue, no reprieve. And so, this is the fate to which we've been consigned. In the final frozen gasps of life, "Oblivion To You All" are the only words that are uttered. In the aftermath, "And the Far Unlit Unknown," spirits wander the cosmos in search of succor and meaning. Is there any to be found? You will never know until you get there...

Well, that's it, the doomsday scenario is complete...or is it? There's a bonus track- "She Only Comes Out at Night," a rather terrifying little number designed to ensure all your dreams will be nightmares. If this doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will. Yes, Noctilucant has raised the bar in the dark ambient realm with 'Oblivion to You All'. The only question is, where do we go from here?
Artist: Simon Balestrazzi
Title: Ghost Systems (for Earle Browne)
Format: CD
Label: Azoth
Rated: *****
Earle Browne is one of the key historical figure (together with Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman, and John Cage) in the field of aleatoric music and his contribution to music (particularly to New York City downtown scene) has been remarkably relevant. He was not totally against notation, but he rather reinvented it, as you can guess by some of his most famous scores: for instance the notation of "December 1952" was entirely based on a graphical notation of horizontal and vertical bars varying in length and "width" (according to Browne's notes, a bidimensional transcription could be freely interpreted as if it had a third dimension), that should freely interpret by every single performer; the score of his first aleatoric piece, "Twenty-Five Pages", consisted of 25 pages with no particular order and no clefs, so that any performer was completely free to follow its performative rules - any performance resulted in an entirely different composition! - and got inspired, according to Browne's words, by Alexander Calder's kinetic sculptures. Strictly related to the above-mentioned "December 1952", "Four Systems" was one of his latest scores and it (or better, the adaptation for four amplified cymbals by Max Neuhaus on Electronique Et Percussion) was the sparkle for this new output by Simon Balestrazzi. In spite of some resemblances with that rendition (particularly the extreme dilatation of the each single tonal length), it's impossible to refer to this release as a calque due to the aleatoric nature of the composition. The way by which Simon paid homage to Browne's score is strictly connected to his idea of making a release about time and memory. The mnemonic element came from a series of recordings (snippets and deconstructed samples related to the notion of ghosts) to be used as a raw material he held, but the connection with Four Systems score has been explained as follows: "I also used Brown's graphic score in every possible twisted way I could imagine: turned into a sort of stencil, I used it to select the samples, their length and frequencies ranges, to choose and place field recordings from my archives, as a ratio for stretching the samples and as a piano roll score to play them...". Such a combination of Browne's score and aural memories resulted into a collection of seven tracks (each of them lasting between 4 to 21 minutes), whose slow dilutions and expansions sound like a deep sonic pool, where field recordings resurface like forgotten memories and entities before disappearing again. The listening experience he provided is intense and constantly interlacing silence and sound and could plunge the listener into a cryptic journey towards unknown emotional depths.
Artist: Sonologyst & Kshatriy (@)
Title: Time is the Enemy
Format: Tape
Label: attenuation circuit (@)
Rated: *****
This release from Sonologyst, the project by Raffaele Pezzella based on the development of early electronic experimentation, and Kshatriy, the project by Bulychev Sergey based on drone music, is as traditional as avant-garde. From a musical perspective, it's exactly what's expected: the juxtaposition of drone music and electro-acoustic one but the equilibrium of writing is able to create a dialogue between the two forms which are complementary in nature. While drone music is rooted in stillness, the tradition referred by Sonologyst is based on a sort of perpetual movement and therefore, if it's not trivial, it escapes from the pit of the forms.
"Unaltered Mind" opens this searching a balance between background noises, high pitches and deep drones and evolves altering this equilibrium letting emerge one of their components. "Venus Smile" is based on the juxtaposition of various drones upon a subtle background of small noises. "Self Luminosity" is focused on the dialectic between a drones and the background sounds. The slow development of "Chronopolis" reveal the sense for the details of the composers and "Time is the Enemy" closes with an use of synth and a sense of aural space which reveals a vague reminiscence of kosmische musik.
Another example on how already codified forms could be drown into modernity without any nostalgia but retaining that spirit of adventure into new musical paths. It's really worth a listening.
Artist: Prioratvm (@)
Title: Adonis
Format: CD
Label: Final Muzik (@)
Rated: *****
Prioratvm is the project by Mirko B. based on a form of neofolk in the vein of the gothic oriented form. So, while the classical guitar is often the main instruments used, the synth are mostly used to obtain atmospheres as sentimental as solemn which are far enough from being mawkish. As the genre's code imposes, the album is based on an ancient myth revolving around beauty.
After an initial atmospheric part, the opening track of this release, "Chajat", focuses on an almost oriental melody. "Belus at Biltis" is closer to some gothic or neofolk music as the classical guitar has the role to expose the main theme of the track. "Adonis" features an apparently different track structure as the synth is the main element instead of having an accompaniment's role. The voice of Maria Cristina Anzola on "Didusch" is able to carry all the musical content as the guitar does in "L'Age D'Or". The spoken words of "La Chute D'Adonis" marks an incursion into more experimental and evocative territories based on the used of more sustained tones as "L'arbre Interdit" partially continues with his hypnotic melody. While "Esvaba L'Usurpateur" partially continues on the same path, the return of the guitar marks the return into more neoclassical path so "Le Serpent Et La Sagesse" closes this release with a guitar melody.
Obviously it doesn't make sense to talk about any innovation when genres as neofolk or chamber are used, instead the quality of writing and the equilibrium of musical elements are the main points for the critical discussion. Adonis is a solid release, probably due also to the sonic equilibrium obtained by the mastering work, and the brilliant tracks make Prioratvm a name to keep an eye on for all fans of this musical genre.
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Artist: Francesco Giannico & Giulio Aldinucci (@)
Title: Agoraphonia
Format: CD
Label: Dronarivm (@)
Rated: *****
This new release from Dronarivm is an example of the zeitgeist as it's an example of the rise of the curator. The project by Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci started as an open call for field recordings about the theme of the square seen as a cultural and political landmark. In our tradition the town square is the gravity center of social intercourse while it's now in a disruption phase due to social media and modernity. Another call was done to obtain photos for the artwork, then they filter and place contribution with the objective of creating a coherent picture of the intended meaning.
The first track, "Koutoubia", is based upon the field recordings of Fabio R. Lattuca in Marocco and portrays the life of a town viewed by a fixed position where the voice from an loudspeaker, maybe a politician, is gradually buried by the other voices of the square and a resonance which develops all sounds intro a drone below the voice. "Plaza de Mayo", based upon the field recordings of Ana Maria Romano, after the distant voices of the place results in an evocative soundscape vaguely reminiscent of political implications. "Shantangjie", based upon the field recordings of Luca Bonaccorsi, generates the sense of movement of an emerging economy while "Piazza Umberto I", based upon the field recordings of Davide di Francesco, sounds as a mediation upon the emptying process of small towns distant from a metropolis. "Agoraphonia", which is based upon a bunch of contributions, is a large portrait of the life in a square without the large discussion someone could expect but with the sense of seeing a bunch of people in transit without any connection between them.
It's difficult to determine the real status of an author when there's a so large number of contributors that have done all the big decisions about the sonic material, however here could be found the sense of the role of the curator which is the research of common traits upon differences to underline the vanishing point of modernity. Francesco Giannico and Giulio Aldinucci turn out to create a coherent view of modern life in a square, and this is a true political stance, and the listener is guided into a view of the world. A truly recommended release.
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