Music Reviews



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Artist: Stereo Hypnosis & Christopher Chaplin
Title: Bjarmi
Format: CD + Download
Label: Fabrique Records
“Bjarmi” is a 40-minute live studio recording, recorded in Hvammstangi in Northern Iceland. The track titles are derived from place names in the nearby Heggstaðanes peninsula, and the tone of the sound is what you may also consider as stereotypically Icelandic- cold, barren sonic landscapes littered with glacial electronic sounds and some rugged rough-hewn textures, resulting in a beautiful sense of complex emptiness.

Established experimental trio Stereo Hypnosis are at the core, with Thorkell Atlasson’s guitar work laying delicately over the synthetic elements and field recordings. At time the purer melodic tones develop shades of Tangerine Dream or 70’s prog rock at its most relaxed, but it’s only a loose comparison. Other trio members Óskar and Pan Thorarensen (father and son) are founders of the Extreme Chill festival and it’s not unreasonable to imagine this release being targeted for performances there. However guest Christopher Chaplin is not just an also-ran here, contributing melodic elements with a slightly more conventional contemporary music tone that give proceedings a stamp of quality as well.

Mostly arhythmic, it’s worth singling out final track “Tangi” for its slow clicking rhythm that, with minimal effort, generates a structure that’s mostly not felt in the other pieces, except perhaps in the breathing and heartbeat patterns of opener “Klif”- a neat piece of bookending with more rhythmic sections that’s an unusual structure for a mostly ambient work like this.

In four ten-minute live pieces (a couple of which perhaps fade too abruptly), it’s a very consistent piece of chill out (or ‘Extreme Chill’) music that doesn’t challenge any established conventions of the genre, but it’s handled with such deftness and such attention to detail that it’s pretty much impossible not to like.
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Artist: Zachary Paul
Title: A Meditation On Discord
Format: CD + Download
Label: Touch # Tone
Three solo works by Zachary Paul, performing violin with electronics, are gathered here for a fairly intensive and immersive bit of solitary performance in which lengthy violin notes and sparse moments of more impulsive playing are layered up, reverberated and droned until the single instrument source has transformed into a full environment you can bathe in.

First piece “Premonition” is an exemplary half-hour exercise in slow build and transformation, as the tension and texture grows and grows, almost imperceptibly slowly, resulting in an impressive self-contained journey where a relatively narrow range of sounds can hold your interest for far longer than ought to be possible.

Second piece “Slow Ascent” is almost inappropriately named then, as it’s got a similar sonic outlay to the first piece, but dynamically it’s more of a plateau, not featureless but devoid of any major changes.

Third piece “A Person With Feelings” was created as the score for a short abstract film that hasn’t been released yet, and reflects an emotional journey that perhaps may make more sense with its associated picture; on its own, it feels more like a compressed version of the opening piece, but reaching a destination that’s more tense and discordant in the end.

Since Ed Alleyne-Johnson’s experiments with electric violin processing in the early 90’s (before he side-stepped into weak crowd-pleasing cover versions), the idea of drawing grittier tones and electronic source elements out of a violin has seemed powerful to me, and these pieces explore the idea well. They may be steeped in anxiety but the result is a rewarding listen, and the fact it doesn’t overstay its welcome is an impressive feat.
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Artist: Régis Renouard Larivière
Title: Contrée
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Recollection GRM
This LP collects together three of Régis Renouard Larivière’s electroacoustic works, with the A side dedicated to the 2013 title track, and the B side featuring two slightly older works.

Despite being relatively recent, “Contrée” feels like it has fallen out of the 1960’s and the boom in sound experimentation, electronic abstraction and radiophonic workshoppery. Twisting and turning source sounds that initially sound like rattling cutlery, though other elements appear later, there are pitch and tone shifts that feel akin to analogue tape playfulness, and particularly to begin with there’s a simplicity and lack of overdubbing that also recalls a simpler, more mechanical sonic time.

The main piece “Contrée” is supposedly the middle part of an electroacoustic triptych when joined with two pieces not included here- 2011’s “Sables” and 2017’s “Nil”- but it makes a happy companion for the other two works that you do get here. As its name implies, “Allegeance volatile” is a punchier affair, with the sonic elements bearing similarities to the first piece, but with the more impulsive and dynamic feeling of movement, driven by some ‘wake up!’ percussive hits. “Esquive”, by contrast, plays much more in the higher register, with some very squeaky sounds (sometimes gratingly so) meandering over the ever-present electroacoustic pulses.

An expression of “the void of sound”, it’s an insistent set of works with a texture that’s harsh at times, yet not abrasive. It sounds older than it actually is, but it will appeal to appreciators of electronic and acoustic experimental sound design that’s a touch more ‘in your face’ than the average.
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Artist: Calculon, Dave Owen, Jaybee and Neve
Title: Comfort Zone / Leads
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: none60 (@)
Rated: *****
By the corner of a living room, as Silent Dust (Andy Hobbs and Daniel Blishen), the folks behind the label none60 sadly (but proudly) describe their place, you can keep on transmit some good tunes throughout the known (and sometimes unknown) channels. This short and intense release saw many hands and many sound heads working on a couple of excellent tracks, sliding over the stylistic path tracked by label's previous releases (a sort of futuristic upgrade of bass driven music by means of smart grasps of old school jungle and dub seeds) into remarkably more energetic soup. The first one "Comfort Zone" - signed by respected Indianapolis-born drum'n'bass producer and DJ Dave Owen, the skilled phat beat forger Nikolai 'Calculon' Bordokoff and Tampa-based D'N'B dj Jaybee (featuring many impressive collaborative releases) - has many of the previously mentioned recipes such the tricky reaggae-dub ignition, a pad-driven bitonal melody reminding 90ies garage, a vocal sample grabbed by old jungle sound banks (but often used by gabber and rave techno makers of the first 90ies) and many stylistical clues in a bombastic rhythmical engine. A similar sonic strategy got followed by Calculon and Jaybee juggling together with Neve on "Leads", the second track, where they add impressive rhythmical stunts by sudden accelerations and decelerations to the pattern. Test it on dancefloors... or on the corners of your living room!
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Artist: Anni Hogan
Title: Lost In Blue
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Blue is the color of sadness as well as the color of the sky and both things are making us feel overwhelmed: the first because of the weight of our contradictions and the second because we feel the beauty and the vastity of the nature and we feel small in front all this. I read "Lost In Blue", the latest Anni Hogan album produced by Dave Ball and Riccardo Mulhall, as the tale of lost souls which wander taking life as it comes: sometimes there are sparkles of joy which explode like a baby's smile, sometimes moments of doubt and if you're lucky there won't be many of despair. In this album Anni is like the owner of a cabaret where people is coming in to share their experiences. Lydia Lunch, Wolfgang Flür (ex Kraftwerk member), Gavin Friday (formerly of Virgin Prunes), Richard Strange (Doctors Of Madness), Kid Congo Powers (of The Gun Club, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds andThe Cramps fame), Celine Hispiche, Scarlet West and John Fiddler are coming in, enjoining Anni while she's playing her piano with an orchestra. They are walking to the mic like their they're going to unload the weight of their lives by telling everything to a friend and they let themselves be carried away by the mood created by the music. Just to give you a precise idea, here's what the label's presentation is writing: "...dark cabaret and modern vaudeville, with Anni's trademark torch songs evoking the dimly-lit corners of bohemian Soho and reigniting the sordid torment of those illustrious Marc & The Mambas days". Anni is also singing some songs, joining her guests with the same sensibility they showed. The album has been released on CD (having a bonus track sung by Wolfgang Flür), blue and black vinyl. For the occasion four video have been released for "Blue Contempt" featuring Lydia Lunch, "Thunderstruck", "Ghosts Of Soho" featuring Celine Hispiche and "Angels Of Romance" featuring Gavin Friday. Lost but not damned!
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