Music Reviews



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Artist: Nexus (@)
Title: The Taint
Format: CD + Download
Label: Agoge Records (@)
Rated: *****
Here's another band from the Italian Agoge Records label called Nexus, and this time they really are gothic rock, well, sort of a goth-metal hybrid. Formed in late 2009 by vocalist/guitarist/composer Vlad Voicu and bassist Tony Di Marzio, they added keyboardist Lorenzo "Il Diverso" Mastracci a short time later and put out an EP called 'Death of Art' in 2013. So 'The Taint' is Nexus's first full album, augmented by live guitarist Diego Aureli and drummer Daniele DiGasbarro. One listen to 'The Taint' and you can tell this is a young band still finding their footing as they go, with some moments of awkwardness in song arrangements, and lacking in sonic variety to a degree. Still, you can also tell the band has potential, and an affinity for the darker side, which is requisite if you're going to call yourself gothic. Melodically the band harkens back to some of the goth-tropes of the '90s but doesn't wallow in the overwrought melodrama that could often be symptomatic of bands of that era. As a vocalist Vlad is pretty good when in melodic mode, but the few times he tries to "gruff it up" (for the harsher side of goth-metal) it doesn't quite cut it. His voice is a bit different than what you might be used to in goth-industrial music, but in this case, that's actually a good thing and works to the band’s advantage. Guitars are full industrial strength, but the keys/synths, although nearly omni-present, seem to rely too much on certain similar (melody) sounds throughout. I'm guessing this may be remedied by their next outing. Most of the songs are catchy enough, but you still get the feeling than in time, this band can do better. They seem to have the ability to create the perfect hit single, and even an epic track, but not on this album. The atmospherics just aren't in place yet, and the album seems to have a "live in the studio" sound that leans more towards ‘demo’ than full-blown production. Still, Nexus is worth a listen, especially since good new goth bands that don't sound like generic alternative ones are hard to come by these days.
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Artist: Ifitisn't
Title: Colophon
Format: CD + Download
Label: Focused Silence
“Colophon” is a 2-track, 20-minute mini CD work from the duo of [first name undisclosed] Robinson, playing modular electronics, double-bass, guitars and ‘sonic sundries’, and Maria Kalnars as “the acoustic part of this outfit” performing with voice, piano, keyboard, melodion, recorder, viola, percussives and found objects. With such a long list of instrumentation packed into a 20 minute work, you might think this release would sound energetic and dense.

In fact, it’s neither of those things. This is stripped-back and semi-minimal electroacoustic ambient work in which odd atmospheric environments are decorated with short stabs of sound that variously glitter, creak and decay independently in situ. The title track is built around a long, hollow, alien-sounding drone, and is surprisingly simplistic.

By contrast second track “Density” is meatier, introducing Kalnar’s voice (as heard in Juxtavoices) and instrumental work in a more obtuse, sometimes quite surreal way- the melodion work in the latter stages bordering on the tongue-in-cheek, contrasting with some squelchy acid electronic sounds in sharp stereo separation in a manner that’s quite playful.

Obtuse, in a good way, this release is worth checking out for “Density” and is an interesting calling card for a pair of artists who seem to have the potential for works that are eye-opening, and potentially quite confusing.
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Artist: Athana with Jody Linscott & Gary Husband
Title: ”The May Sessions 0518”
Format: CD
Label: West Audio Music
Rated: *****
I reviewed different releases by Alf Terje Hana's Athana and for his newest one he teamed up with Jody Linscott and Gary Husband. Jody Linscott is a session musician and percussionist coming from the U.K. Gary Husband played as session man with different people of the likes of Jeff Beck, Al Jarreau, Andy Summers, Steve Hackett and many more and he's been part of Level 42 as well as of Allan Holdsworth Group, Gary Husband & Friends, Gary Husband's Drive, John McLaughlin And The 4th Dimension, Olga Konkova Trio. The whole band for his latest live album titled ”The May Sessions 0518” is the following: Alf Terje Hana - Guitar, electronics, composer - Jody Linscott - Percussion, Gary Husband - Keyboards, Drums - Torgeir Nes - Electronics, live sampling Øyvind Grong - Bass, voice - (Guests on vocals: Astrid Kloster / Christian Hovda). The seven tracks of the album have been recorded at the Tou Scene and at the Folken MajJazz Festival the last year in May. Compared to the last album I reviewed I must say that on this one the "improvisation" factor maybe is influencing a little bit the home experience. I mean, there is always the presence of ambient atmospheres and distorted "in your face" guitars with heavy drumming moments but I feel that the jazzy improvisation kind of killed the experimental vein we had on the other releases. Probably this is due to the back experiences of the session men but this is a thing that my ear caught and it affected a bit the judgment. The album is available as CD, double LP and digitally. I received also a printed USB key which is containing the video file of the "Athana Symphonic Experience", the concert recorded in 2013 where as guest drummer Athana welcomed Stewart Copeland. A nice bonus...
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Artist: Paulor
Title: Spaceship
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Life And Death
Mexican artist Paulor’s first release on Life And Death is built from two steady floor-friendly house tracks that take the underlying vibe of late 70’s and early 80’s synthy-electro-disco, and gently fuse it with more contemporary-sounding techno and acid sounds.

The title track is instrumental save for the robot-effected “spaceship” phrase repeated at the start of most sections. “Planet Gold” is the more relaxed of the two, with a more gradual progressive outlook and some sparkly arpeggios.

After that there’s a generous helping of big-name remixes of the title track, all of which hit the mark with confidence. Vitalic’s remix tweaks some of the noises and elements, making it a clappier house affair, but keeps the underlying disco attitude very much the same. Fango’s ‘The Suppa Robot Dancer’ remix is a highlight, upping the old-school electro element by a high factor and reveling in breakdance territory, bringing the squelchy bass to the fore.

JD Twitch’s mix focuses on spacey synths, adding more complex percussion and an extra NASA sample and tweaking the core bass groove into something a bit more nasty, or at least sinister. Superpitcher’s remix has two versions, with ‘space trip’ reminiscent of old indulgent 90’s progressive house journeys, eleven minutes of gradual shifting and synth-immersion that studiously avoids any great sense of urgency before devolving into near-ambient territory at the end, and ‘space strip’ which, instead of the dub version you might be expecting, is more like a “part 2” that starts in the hollow synth ambiences that the version mix left us with, and explores them more indulgently, and perhaps less effectively, for a six minute bonus.

Don’t let the frankly bizarre choice of cover artwork put you off, this is a really solid pack of long journeying house tunes, with a nice variety of remixes that keeps things consistent but not too narrow. If you like your instrumental house very sci-fi and laidback, you’ll enjoy this pack a lot.
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Artist: Jörg Piringer
Title: Darkvoice
Format: CD + Download
Label: Transacoustic Research
Jörg Piringer (of The Vegetable Orchestra)’s “darkvoice” album is pitched as a dark commentary on modern communication surveillance and the act of obfuscating vocal sounds beyond the boundaries of comprehension- all quite sinister and sombre.

The audio that comes out of it, however, seems almost bright by comparison. Though it’s made entirely from digitally manipulated vocal sounds (and “sinister typography”, though I’m unclear what that means), it has a sonic palette that’s electronica bordering on dark slow techno. Steady and crisp rhythm patterns, sometimes industrial-ish but never particularly bass-heavy, are a structural skeleton for low hummed bass, thin higher-end melodic chords, and spontaneously squelchy and glitchy percussive impulses.

Tracks like “peed” and the broody “dig” make the vocal sourcing more self-evident, centring around single vocal sounds that are played with but still identifiable as human, while tracks like “p a” devolve the sound beyond that point of recognition.

It isn’t all happiness and light- tracks like “bbbbb” or the extra-glitchy “raacc” have a decidedly raw edge to them- but it’s offset by pieces like “el sys” which, with its meandering bouncy melody, recalls the fun side of early synthesizer experimentation. Final piece “hoit”, after a tense intro, is almost playful by the end.

Other highlights include the odd three-step of “d-singe”, and the almost dancefloor-friendly groove of “teew”.

Overall, conceptually angsty it might well be, but the reality of it is a dark but detailed foot-tapper from the interesting edges of experimental techno. It’s got a unique character that’s worth sampling.
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