Music Reviews



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Artist: Rapoon (@)
Title: Darker by Light
Format: CD
Label: Zoharum (@)
Distributor: Alchembria
Rated: *****
"Darker by Light" is another chapter of the reissue series of Rapoon by Zoharum and chronologically situated between "The Kirghiz Light" and "The Fires of the Borderlands", so it's based around the same framework: static ambient music upon processed ethnic rhythms. The overall result is once again hypnotic and full of small sonic detail behind the curtain of stasis.
The first track, "Night that Thunders", is a soundscape based on drones and full of resonances upon a repetitive, but hypnotic, beat. "Lies and Propaganda" is instead based on loops and a more varying rhythmic part. "Tidal Transmissions" is a proper ambient track based on loop and samples and constantly moving by small sonic variation. "Sunday's Shadows" is so slowly moving by accumulation to appear static even if it's properly a crescendo. "From Sleep Awake" marks the return of an ethnic drum, even if processed, with loops which ebb and flow. "Twilight" is the most static, but full of nuances in lower end of the spectrum, track of this album and "Winter's Edge" is the track of the dryer, but religious, atmosphere. "Prayer" features flutes to give high frequencies to a track based on bass ones. "Flight" closes this release with wide spectrum drones which surround the listener.
This music reveals the reason why the influence of Rapoon on an entire musical scene is so evident: few artist are so able to properly balance movement and stasis to hypnotize the listener without bore him. A piece of history.
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Artist: MZ.412 (@)
Title: Svartmyrkr
Format: CD
Label: Cold Spring (@)
Rated: *****
Thirteen years after "Infernal Affairs", the godfathers of black industrial returns with a new release that could arise every sort of doubt about how time affected their music. "Ulvens Broder", the EP which has anticipated this release, hinted an evolution towards a more layered, and subtle, sound in place of the harshness at the core of their classic album. "Svartmyrkr" is surprisingly an evolution towards a more atmospheric musical framework where noise has a restrained, but important, place.
The field recording of a fire pit opens "Äntra Helstraffet" which evolves in an evocative soundscape made out of sample, sparse drum beat and distorted vocal and ends in an explosion introducing this release. The pounding beat of "Öppna Hegrind" is almost hidden by the haunting screaming and the noises used as elements of a soundscape instead as bricks of a wall. "Codex Mendacium" is a crescendo where noise emerges from a quiet drone. "Ulvens Broder", which anticipated this release, is confirmed as the track which condense the musical elements of this release. "Helblar" is an interlude which seems quiet as uses sustained tones, instead of noises, and resonances. "Ulvens Bleka Syster" features fast string, closer to the ones used in sound tracks to mimic the exiting of bats from a lair, and abrupt stops. "Burn Your Temples, True Change" is quiet a metal track, as it's based on acoustic and electric guitar, and reveals the aim of the band to find new way of expression. "She Who Offers Sorrow" is a return to the noisy assault of their first albums while "We Are Eternal" sound as their version of neofolk with its acoustic drum, the trumpets and the epic atmosphere. "Lokastafr Ablaze With The Thorns Of Death" closes this release with an suspended atmosphere using drones, drums and sparse noises.
A lot of bands would simply exhumed their old sound to please their old fans placating their nostalgia. Ulvtharm, Nordvargr and Drakh have instead decided to move their sound one step towards other territories using crafts instead of impact. Highly recommended.
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Artist: Mike Vernusky (@)
Title: MotherSpeak
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Audiobulb (@)
Rated: *****
Composer Mike Vernusky turns the ear into a microscope in MotherSpeak. Taking us through the African bush via electronics, field recordings, and a live performance in that very environment, the album bleeds like its listeners. “Vibrational Empire” sets the tone with insect-oriented signals, speaking not through words but through patterns of air and movement. Like the rice thrown across the ring before a sumo match begins, it delineates the space as sacred before its primal struggles begin. Only here, the contest isn’t between flesh but time. “Of Leaf And Mud” renders a crisper landscape of wind infused with whispers of human intervention before a chorus of frogs scrawls its messages across mental slate. “Eyes Aquatic” breathes underwater and measures depth in metaphysical terms. The only available method of communication respires beyond the threshold of lips and tongue, and relies instead on the music of something inherently physiological. “Clipping The Wind Stave” deepens this shape of water, funneling rain into the open mouth of a dying architecture, as if the very scaffolding of humanity were folding in on itself. All of which makes “Unmistakable Plumage” feel all the more alien, as a testimony avails us with its humanity. A man tells of his guidance, his upbringing, and his family as a way of unraveling the filament of local consciousness. This is the real linkage between South Africa and Botswana promised in the album’s press release, rendered not by cartography but by the memories of those whose feet have compacted the soil. Backgrounding this narrative—indeed, telling a story all its own—are the sounds Vernusky has collected. Sounds that others might gloss over or ignore outright, expendable in their lack of meaning, yet which in this context are more lucid than ever. They seem to say: All of creation is an indivisible mixture of semiotic impulses rotting like neglected machines until all that’s left is the soul.

These sonic films live somewhere at the center of our listening. One can almost sense them running down the spine in search of entry, for they are a nervous system unto themselves, activating limbs and sensations of which the earth is only a single organ.
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Artist: Silk Road Assassins
Title: State Of Ruin
Format: 2 x 12" vinyl
Label: Planet Mu
A collaboration between three producers whose day jobs are in production music for films and games, “State Of Ruin” certainly has a soundtrack-style lean to it. From the opening gutpunches of “Overgrown” to the synth-atmospherics of “Split Matter”, it’s a very Planet Mu-appropriate work of intelligent instrumental electronica that you can certain picture accompanying visuals, cut scenes or gameplay (and a couple of choice spoken-word samples certainly reinforces this)- but it also works in its own right as a 43-minute listening album. The only real issue against it is the way that, like a lot of library music, none of the tracks top the four minute mark so they play as short ideas rather than longer or deeper experiments.

Tracks like “Shadow Realm”, featuring WWWINGS, bring the noise and the bullet-percussion and excel with a great dynamic and tension that commands your attention, whereas “Pulling The String”, nice though it is, does feel like a bit of unused incidental underscore. There’s something faintly Eastern-sounding about “Saint” that gives it a more notable flavour.

The naming of “Taste Of Metal (Instrumental)” is perhaps telling as it definitely comes across as an instrumental version of a track that would be completed by a grime-ish rap or an introspective vocal. “Bloom” gives off a similar vibe.

“Vessel” is a highlight for me, the arpeggiating synths and slow build, gentle drop arrangement forming a really nice bit of rich synthwave, with “Bowman” also notable for a similarly successful switch-up of pseudo-orchestral pacifist moments against punchier and spontaneous crisp percussion work.

Overall it lacks the distinctive character or twist that I might have normally expected from a Planet Mu release, but nevertheless it’s a strong piece of digital synth-electronica that keeps things nicely steady.
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Artist: Ulrich Troyer
Title: Dolomite Dub
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: 4Bit Productions
Ulrich Troyer, a member of the Vegetable Orchestra, has enlisted a couple of colleagues from that ensemble but left the vegetables behind temporarily in order to create a neat 40-minute work that’s inherently quite conceptual- both musically, structured around a single tone scale but alternating the key tone between each of the four parts, and as a broader artistic statement attempting to represent in music the experience of a several-day alpine hike across the Italian mountains- but which as an end product, the bottom-line sonic output stripped of its conceptual clothing, is an absolutely charming bit of downtempo quasi-electronica that’s tailor-made for relaxation.

The dub elements- most notably Didi Kern’s percussion, the low walking basslines and the use of long reverbs and delays- blend beautifully with more ‘sound art’-style decorative elements and effects. Squelching bass noises and found sounds give some of the parts a more than slight resemblance to some 90’s Future Sound Of London works, a comparison that’s given further weight by both the tempo and the supremely confident blending of real instrumentation into esoteric sonic space. The long track structures and slow evolution also recalls early The Orb tracks from the same period. The deftness with which interest is maintained over forty minutes has to be appreciated. The contra-alto clarinet- an instrument for which I continue to have a soft spot- is enchanting in its minimalism for the most part, eventually unfolding into a brighter jaunty melody in Part IV that feels as though it represents that bit of the long hike where the home or basecamp is in sight and you realise you’ll make it with time and energy to spare.

It’s mesmeric, with a tangible calming influence and a fantastic attention to texture and detail that rewards repeat listens. It’s early doors so far but it seems likely this will be one of my favourite albums of the year.
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