Music Reviews



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Artist: Jemh Circs
Title: (untitled) Kingdom
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Cellule
Using the cultural appropriation attitudes spearheaded by Negativland and taking pop music and YouTube rips as the (possibly sole) sonic source, and mangling and mashing those sources with the experimental outlook of early Steve Reich tape experiments but using modern tech to pull those sound clips past the bounds of recognisability and far beyond, Marc Richter, as Jemh Circs, offers up twenty-four short, often awkward, sometimes impenetrable noisy soundscapes of short loops pulled into unconventional time signatures, processed found sounds and electronic glitching, many of them shorter than this sentence.

But there’s more musicality at play here than the ‘borrowing from YouTube’ concept may imply. The pitch shifting of choral noises into chord patterns in “(AA)” is well constructed and successful. Perhaps by appropriating string sounds from film soundtracks (I’m speculating there), pieces like “Lac Dali” have their own noisy take on an emotional symphonic atmosphere, while the title track embodies the entire concept quite neatly

There’s a fair share of more sparse and melancholic pieces, but plenty of noisy rough-edged pieces like “20/20” and broken-rhythm-experiment “L.V” to keep you on your toes throughout the 64-minute listen.

It’s a strong concept, well executed, and while the result isn’t necessarily a pleasant listen and you do find yourself wishing that some of the ideas could’ve been fleshed out a little further beyond the three-minute mark (I particularly wanted to hear more of “Metabolismus”), it’s a piece of work worthy of some attention.
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Artist: House Of Blondes
Title: Time Trip
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Alrealon Musique
Though they cite influences like Steve Reich and Brian Eno, John Blonde and Chris Pace’s work as House Of Blondes sits quite firmly under the umbrella of synthwave, albeit on the more sombre and serious side of that playing field. Across nine pieces, all instrumental with the exception of one single word in one track, they combine layered synths and samples with a mix of real and electronic drums and some authentic bass guitar.

It’s a steadily grooved, measured, road-trip atmosphere most of the time, with pieces like the title track evoking images of steady, trouble-free open-road driving in some warm synthetic forest. “Why It Happened In The West”, with its steady repeating ‘remember’ mantra, feels like it wants to make some important political statement but the result is probably more suited than the musicians intended to winding the car window down and turning cruise control on. There’s a positivity to “The Tilted Earth” that feels genuinely warming.

Things do get a little darker and colder in pieces like “Modern Clock” with its forefronting of quite droney pad sounds, but a predisposition towards melody is never too far away. Gentle ballad-like “The Rise Of The Equal Hour” is a prime example. “Intimate Seconds”, with a slightly darker distorted synth bass, sounds like it might be about to rip into speaker-busting drum-and-bass imminently, but it never arrives.

It’s a pack of atmospheric and thoughtful synthwave that at points threatens to deteriorate into blandness but generally manages to keep it together as a synth soundtrack well suited to those times when you’re actively looking for something that’s uneventful but in the nicest possible way.
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Artist: iety (@)
Title: hope you were covered up
Format: CD
Label: Wide Ear Records (@)
Rated: *****
After I saw a couple of video live recording, I certify that a live concert by iety, a Luzern-based trio by the funny Elio Amberg (playing a tenor sax and a bass clarinet on this output), Laura Schenk (on piano) and Amadeus Fries (on drums) could be much funnier than listening to them through an audio-only support (as 90% of improv and free jazz collective or solo projects), but the deprivation of visual and scenic aspect can't really overshadow the chance to appreciate their amazing sounds. They're perfectly aware of the kind of puzzlement their sound can inspire into a listener, who could ask - for example - if they perform composition or if they're improvising. Well, they seem to say they do something in between improv and composition and such an ambiguity can be related to other aspects of their awesome sound, where sterility can coexist with emotion, and "uncontrolled energy sallies on celebrating the details", according to the introductory words by the label Wide Ear. The two video clips I found are live performances of the first two tracks of this album (the opening 9433 and the title track "hope you were covered up") an I invite you to check them out to have an idea of the energy and the above-mentioned ambiguity sprouting out of iety's sound. A similarly dada-punkish approach to improvisation can be heard on the following tracks such as "kick etude" or the evocative "ophelia" - the tonal thuds and its bitter mood as well as its similarities with some soundtracks of 70ies soap operas (a resemblance that gets more clearly audible on the final "petrol") could let you imagine a modern portrait of the Shakespearean character -, even if this approach could thinly veil a (desired?) certain rawness in some moments of their experiment.
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Artist: Twentytwentyone + DIISSC Orchestra
Title: Split LP
Format: LP
Label: Music Information Centre Lithuania
This is a truly split piece of vinyl in two distinct parts, with the commonality being both sides comprise modern experimental electronic music from Lithuanian musicians, but in terms of review, I might as well refer to each side- each with 4 distinct tracks, each track around 5 to 6 minutes long- as independent works that just happen to have been pressed onto the same piece of vinyl.

The first side is laptop quartet Twentytwentyone’s take on Cornelius Cardew’s visual score from 1967 “Treatise”. Working independently, each of the four members recorded elements inspired by different pages of Cardew’s long and sketchy work, which were then layered together in the studio, with each member having the final say on one particular track.

The result is a selection of short electroacoustic-style pieces with a sparse and slightly sci-fi, Radiophonic Workshop-esque flavour full of distant rumbles, incomprehensible soft percussion noises and long tuneful industrial drones. The natural exception to this is the fourth piece, which is decidedly more noise-heavy and has more distinct sections and sharp-edged edits in it, for which reason it stands out a little. Over twenty minutes I’m not convinced that it constitutes a coherent work in its own right but it’s a rich bit of experimentation for sure.

The second side is four independent compositions that occupy a similar sonic space, but without the obligation to interconnection implied on the first side. Vytautas V. Jurgutis’ “Tinohi” is a series of sawtoothed bubbly noises building to near-white-noise cacophony that then transmogrifies into gritty industriaul noise synthesis, that makes the following track by Jonas Jurkunas, with slow organ chords and drones, seem like ambient light relief by comparison. Martynas Bialobzeskis’s “MY DO” is also a drone, but a much grittier affair with low rumbles and some teethy scratching noises. Final piece “exe.rpm” by Antanas Jasenka seems most out of place because it actually has a rhythm, or at least a steady pulse, built out of short-cut samples in unpredictable patterns, over which the squelchy sci-fi noises dance and play- skirting at times towards the sound of electronica gone weird.

It’s an interesting package from Music Information Centre Lithuania, who I’ve previously heard releasing more conventionally-minded pieces of long modern experimental classical music. This however is deep into squelchy electronic rumbles and drones, and while it doesn’t necessarily have any of the “wow” moments that the results of truly eye-opening music experiments can sometimes have, it’s a polished package that will appeal to lovers of electronic avant garde.
Apr 16 2018
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Artist: Zonk't
Title: Banburismus
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: Sound On Probation
Laurent Perrier, who I last encountered using his Heal alias to produce a very focussed single-concept experimental album, has come up with something much more expansive and expectation-defying here- long, drawn-out part-electronica, part slow techno, part electronic dub.

The first side is completely comprised of one 18-minute piece “Square”. Opening with a very long and sombre synthetic drone, the listener may at first begin to think they’re getting 37 minutes of heartrate-lowering mellowness, but what unfolds after the misleading opening third is a much more complex arrangement of nicely odd electronica, gentle synth stabs bouncing around in lakes of decay and delay with meandering glitching pads and a barely audible bass note that manages, to some degree, to keep proceedings vaguely grounded.

The second side is in three parts, with first “Chronogyre”, which introduces a steady, almost dubby sub-bassline over which plays some increasingly sparky sawtooth-edged synth notes that gradually build in chaoticness, but the underlying groove stays rock-steady. Although it starts with some cheery baby giggling noises, “Colussus” goes darker, laying some cinematic synth pads over another steady rumbling bassline. The dubby themes continue into short final track “Conditional Probability”, which is the track that sounds most like recent The Orb tracks, in the best possible way.

It’s strong, warm, dubby electronica with a lot of variety and a real sense of journey and purpose, and it ought to command a lot of attention.
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