Music Reviews

Artist: Amp (@)
Title: Entangled Time
Format: CD + Download
Label: Sound In Silence Records (@)
Rated: *****
Sound in Silence always seems to come up with interesting releases (making it one of my favorite labels of late) and this one by Amp is certainly a pleasure. For those not familiar with the Amp project, it is the electronic/post rock duo of Richard F. Walker (aka Richard Amp) and Karine Charff, based in London, UK. Amp's lineup has changed numerous times over the years since its inception by Walker in 1992. Prior to that Walker was a member of a band in Bristol called The Secret Garden that incubated a number of groups including Flying Saucer Attack and Third Eye Foundation. Amp's permutations and collaboration members (not to mention its discography) could fill a page, but you can find that information elsewhere.

Having no prior acquaintance with Amp I took a brief tour through their discography to get a sense of what they're about and a feel for their evolution over time. Pieces ranged from droney-experimental and sometimes noise-based to exhibiting some [traditional] song structure, albeit somewhat loose. Rhythm was sometimes present, sometimes not. Vocals (where present) were often swathed in reverb and echo making them another hazy ambient element, some with lyrics, others wordless. While most of the instrumental elements are electronic, and keyboard based, guitar and other instruments were sometimes employed. Sometimes the motif is noisy shoegazer, ala My Bloody Valentine. Within the confines of their oeuvre there seems to be a fair amount of variety, although the drone and shoegaze formats remain constant. Nothing ever approaches anything even remotely mainstream; their improvisatory nature precludes that.

While a good number of their past works often feature the experimental and avant-garde, 'Entangled Time' is relatively straightforward and set with little deviation from its structure. Gauzy, gossamer drones and pads are employed throughout the five tracks in 43 minutes that comprises this album. Charff's ethereal vocals float over, under, around and through this haze like a shimmering, elegant thread in a sonic tapestry. Rhythm is used sparingly (on two tracks only - "Will-Oh Dreams," and "Will-Oh Dreams Extended Mix") and is minimal. While some might say that rhythm in predominantly ambient music of this type is just a distraction, I think it adds to the hypnotic effect. Karine's deliciously dreamy Ophelia-like voice is not omnipresent but when it does appear, it adds dimension and depth that makes this work a standout in the realm of ambient. While not breaking any new ground here, Amp solidified its approach and trimmed the rough edges often found in their previous efforts. A worthy album, limited to 200 handmade and hand-numbered collectible copies, the like of which Sound In Silence is typically known for.
Artist: Testphasen Negative (@)
Title: The Social Apocalypse
Format: CD + Download
Label: ContraMusikProduktion (@)
Rated: *****

'The Social Apocalypse' is my first acquaintance with German industrial-noise band Testphasen Negative, and maybe I'm not the best choice for reviewing this album in light of my waning appreciation and tolerance for noise projects. Be that as it may, I still know what appeals to noize aficionados, and while a good chunk of this album should please them, I do have some reservations.

Testphasen Negativ has been around since at least 2008 (maybe even earlier) putting out five albums prior to this one, three of them on the ContraMusikProduktion label, and of course I haven't heard any of them. At least I'm approaching this with a clean slate. The album is comprised of nine tracks of semi-structured pieces which I would hesitate to call songs. Elements include recitations (mostly in German...some in English), LOTS of circuit-bending noise, minimal beats, minimal piano, occasional bass, and other electronics. First track, "Call Me God" has (Verse?) lyrics in German except for the "call me god, yeah you can call me god" chorus, with a minimal kick beat, crunchy, distorted electronics and circuits bent to hell. Sounds pretty nihilistic. I was almost impressed, but then track 2, "Ritual" began with some lame, repetitious, minimal piano chords and a sweeping noise beat and annoying ringing tone. Nicht sehr gut. Granted, a little later it did pick up the pace with a heavier double-time but the solitary piano chords stuck out like a sore thumb. "Klotz am Bein" has a sampled, repeating short vocal snippet running through it which is amusing, but the rest of the track is quite dark. The German recitation is creepily foreboding, and the noize-musik builds in intensity to conclusion. Actually not too bad; even those who tend to be noise-adverse might find the track interesting. "Lies" has one over-arching theme to present here - "don't believe the lies of your government" amidst a plethora of noise and minimal music. Seriously? Is there anyone who would listen to this who actually TRUSTS their government? I think not. Kind of preaching to the choir on this one.

"Schwindelgefuehl," (dizzyness/vertigo) may not evoke the full effect of its title, but the controlled electronic chaos, smattering of distortion, banging piano chords, whispered malevolence, and bass tension might come close. "No Compromises" is full of guitar noiz as well as other electronic squalls and some beatz, but it just sounds like fucking around to me, although it does get kind of swirly-psychedelic near the end. This bleeds into "Fassade" via a feedback tone where that nihilistic Deutsche-vox is back again with a deep bass beat with air raid siren style electronics. "Destroyed (they will rip you apart)" pulls out all the stops in the noiz department even overriding the vocal. Then the screaming begins. Ok, I've had enough. I surrender, just please make it stop.

Up to this point I was thinking, "eh, this album is kind of just so-so." Then the 11:33 masterpiece "Abgrund" began. Now the elements employed on this piece aren't much different than what went before, but the composition is incredible! This one track is worth the album. Just take my word for it; it has more noise-musicality than all the other tracks combined, and plenty of dramatic tension too. And just when you think it's over, it send you down another path to an unexpected conclusion. Marvelous. This is certainly not an album for everyone, but for the connoisseur of industrial noize and nihilism, it has its merits.
Apr 05 2019
Artist: Pang
Title: Pang
Format: 12" vinyl + Download
Label: oqko
With an artist name and title “Pang” and track names that range from “Pang Pang” to “Pang Pang Pang” to “Pang Pang Pang Pang” to “Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang” to “Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang” to “Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang”, this is a release that could be a music writer’s nightmare or their dream depending on whether they are worried about clarity, and whether they’re getting paid by the word- which I’m not, so here we go…

It’s a title and a singular branding that, to me showing my age, brings to mind “Poing” by Rotterdam Termination Source- and with it, ideas of hard-edged, brutally rough-edged bouncy techno. But what you get is much more ornate and detailed electronica than that- a small but well-formed and naunced half-hour package of glitchy instrumental smart-electronica built from familiar synthetic elements arranged with above-average complexity. Rhythms impart urgently but in broken, keep-you-on-your-toes fashion as if defying you to dance, ready to catch you by surprise at any moment.

It’s got industrial attitude infused into its mix for sure, with the third track a prime example of it. Track 4 does exhibit more of that raw techno brutality I was initially expecting, driven by a heavily distorted and hard-to-predict kick sound that’s more than a little bit Aphex Twin-ish.

The second track is an example of where it all goes a little bit more grime-infused, and it doesn’t stretch the imagination too much to picture a grime rapper- one of the more eloquent and light-toed ones- leaping onto this as a background for some dark narrative. Final track “Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang Pang” opens as though it will be the album’s mellow, thoughtful finale before breaking into the album’s most aggressive and difficult moments, ending with a bang (or a ‘pang’) rather than a gentle whimper.

Nicely packaged, short and sweet, this is thoughtful electronica that ends up being slightly under-sold by the brash and tongue-in-cheek branding.
Artist: John Zorn
Title: Insurrection
Format: CD
Label: Tzadik
Rated: *****
John Zorn's 'Insurrection' features the dueling/dancing guitar work of Julian Lage and Matt Hollenberg, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Kenny Grohowski. All compositions were written by Zorn for the quartet. As you might expect, there are a variety of moods captured in this album, with guitar lines coming from every angle, but never stepping on each other in ways that don't work out. All of the playing is thoughtful. All song names are taken from (somewhat) well-known novels.

The albums begins with a heavy rock-riff, which is then anchored by a pulsing bass line, with Grohowski skittering around the kit at high speed. Some angular, atonal guitar solos are offered up left and right by Lage and Hollenberg.

Next up, not surprisingly for Zorn, is a downtempo piece, clocking in at almost 8 1/2 minutes. "Pulsations" is a beautiful composition that feels part jazz fusion, part exotica, part ambient. Hollenberg channels some Marc Ribot here and it sounds fantastic.

"A Void" has a funky bass line that gets pushed around by a guitar attack that does not stand still. Grohowski remains on Dunn's team though and keeps the funk flowing underneath the guitar onslaught. I haven't heard Trevor Dunn lay down a bass line like this since his Mr. Bungle days. A great rock tune.

"Mason And Dixon" slows things down once again in a sparse piece, where Lage starts off on lead and Hollenberg on shimmering rhythm. That quickly changes as Hollenberg takes over briefly. Both guitarists play in unison briefly and then it's Hollenberg's turn as he puts a bit of twang into the affair. The duo trade brief solos for the bulk of the tune with Hollenberg's beautiful tone carrying it for me. The rhythm section hovers just in the background.

"Progeny" is a rumbling affair, with great unison guitar work as well as solo shredding. Grohowksi and Dunn are all over the place, chasing or being chased by the guitarists.

"The Journal Of Albion Moonlight" is full of beautiful sustained notes, gentle cymbal and snare work, given a dark tone by Dunn's bass-work.

"The Unnameable" is the strangest composition on the album, with a low, almost droning bass line, extremely spare guitar playing and just cymbal and low-tom work on the drums. A creepy masterpiece.

The recording is nice and warm, never harsh, even during the most intense guitar passages. The separation between Hollenberg and Lage is perfectly balanced - they are distinct but clearly in the same room. You can tell they're talking to one another. Bass and drums hold a very controlled yet pronounced bottom end, with the cymbals dancing around the guitars and holding their place, never distracting. This is a fun quartet.
Artist: Audraulic (@)
Title: Quadrate Patterns
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Section 27
A journey on the darker end of the ambient-electronic spectrum, with segues into downtempo and techno, but always firmly into the realm of ambient atmospherics. The opening track, "Gardens at Impossible Distances" drifts into eerie ambient with darker, yet majestic and spacious sounds with layers of human voice, perhaps synthetic, that instill a kind of ghostly quality -- sort of eerie, yet majestic. The eeriness dissipates in the following "Kobalt", a downtempo electronic track that skirts Oxygene-era Jean-Michel-Jarre where beats and slow melody interplay. "Last Practitioner of the Vanishing Technique" and title track, "Quadrate Patterns" starts off with drones that ricochet, and semi orchestral sweeps before it ventures into understated beats with squelching acid techno accents and layers of techno melodies that pick up as the track progresses and are catchy--an unexpected turn for something that feels more on the ambient tip. "Lost Memories" and "A Soul The Same" has a vast, cavernous feel, early 80's Vangelis, specifically the Bladerunner soundtrack for when Roy Batty meets and dispatches his maker. Human voice, understated rhythms and dirge-like tones with sombre piano notes in cohesion lend dark overtone. The overall feel of this album is slightly retro electro-ambient that Audraulic is able to conjure and deploy to powerful effect. The aptly titled "Mountains in the Sky" bookends Quadrate Patterns with deep sound yet offers a more optimistic overtone. Ambient is really where Audraulic excels best, but even the most rhythmic track here is saturated in atmosphere and brings cohesion. Audraulic delivers magnificent, moving ambient and with orchestral majesty and sweeps...the last track the musical equivalent of a sunrise.
[ Next ] [ Previous ]

[1...10] [11...20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31...40] [41...50] [51...60] [61...70] [71...80] [81...90] [91...100] [101...110] [111...120] [121...130] [131...140] [141...150] [151...160] [161...170] [171...180] [181...190] [191...200] [201...210] [211...220] [221...230] [231...240] [241...250] [251...260] [261...270] [271...280] [281...290] [291...300] [301...310] [311...320] [321...330] [331...340] [341...350] [351...360] [361...370] [371...380] [381...390] [391...400] [401...410] [411...420] [421...430] [431...440] [441...450] [451...460] [461...470] [471...480] [481...490] [491...500] [501...510] [511...520] [521...530] [531...540] [541...550] [551...560] [561...570] [571...580] [581...590] [591...600] [601...610] [611...620] [621...630] [631...640] [641...650] [651...660] [661...670] [671...680] [681...690] [691...700] [701...710] [711...720] [721...730] [731...740] [741...750] [751...760] [761...770] [771...780] [781...790] [791...800] [801...810] [811...820] [821...830] [831...840] [841...850] [851...860] [861...870] [871...880] [881...890] [891...900] [901...910] [911...920] [921...930] [931...940] [941...950] [951...960] [961...970] [971...980] [981...990] [991...1000] [1001...1010] [1011...1020] [1021...1030] [1031...1040] [1041...1050] [1051...1060] [1061...1070] [1071...1080] [1081...1090] [1091...1100] [1101...1110] [1111...1120] [1121...1130] [1131...1140] [1141...1150] [1151...1160] [1161...1170] [1171...1180] [1181...1190] [1191...1200] [1201...1210] [1211...1220] [1221...1230] [1231...1240] [1241...1250] [1251...1260] [1261...1270] [1271...1280] [1281...1290] [1291...1300] [1301...1310] [1311...1320] [1321...1330] [1331...1340] [1341...1350] [1351...1360] [1361...1370] [1371...1380] [1381...1390] [1391...1400] [1401...1410] [1411...1420] [1421...1430] [1431...1440] [1441...1450] [1451...1460] [1461...1470] [1471...1480] [1481...1490] [1491...1500] [1501...1510] [1511...1520] [1521...1530] [1531...1540] [1541...1550] [1551...1560] [1561...1570] [1571...1580] [1581...1590] [1591...1600] [1601...1610] [1611...1620] [1621...1630] [1631...1640] [1641...1650] [1651...1660] [1661...1670] [1671...1680] [1681...1690] [1691...1700] [1701...1710] [1711...1720] [1721...1730] [1731...1740] [1741...1750] [1751...1760] [1761...1770] [1771...1780] [1781...1790] [1791...1800] [1801...1810] [1811...1820] [1821...1830] [1831...1840] [1841...1850] [1851...1860] [1861...1870] [1871...1880] [1881...1890] [1891...1900] [1901...1910] [1911...1920] [1921...1930] [1931...1940] [1941...1950] [1951...1960] [1961...1970] [1971...1980] [1981...1990] [1991...2000] [2001...2010] [2011...2020] [2021...2030] [2031...2040] [2041...2050] [2051...2060] [2061...2070] [2071...2080]

Search All Reviews:
[ Advanced Search ]

Chain D.L.K. design by Marc Urselli
Suffusion WordPress theme by Sayontan Sinha