Music Reviews



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Artist: The Last Hour
Title: Deadline
Format: CD
Label: Seventh Crow Records
Rated: *****
A late but welcomed discovery of the Italian dark/new-wave tinged undergound came on my headphones from his author Roberto Del Vecchio - former member of Les Jumeaux Discordants -, the man behind The Last Hour, whose inevitable hooks to previous acts of the scene - the most immediate similarity is to the sound of Depeche Mode, as the opening "Heartbeat" could surmise "Precious" and other older hits of Gahan's crew, but while listening to this excellent release the regions of your brain where musical memories like Clan Of Xymox, The Frozen Autumn (if you know the above-mentioned Italian scene, this name should tell you something), Peter Murphy, Joy Division, Project Pitchfork and similar bands could be activated - take second place, if you focus both on the mastery of its conceptual and sonic mechanisms by the author and the emotional intensity of the album, which seems to come from obscure and alienated meditations. The songs I appreciated more are the ones where this feeling of alienation got masterfully highlighted by the gloomy voice of Roberto such as "Oblivion", "Everything Fades Away" or "Nowhere", but other little pearls like the cover song of The Sound's "Winning" as well as other moments where isolationism becomes magnetic by means of cold-wave breezes and vocal phantasmogoria are really delightful.
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Artist: Rydberg
Title: s/t
Format: CD
Label: Monotype Records (@)
Rated: *****
I've frankly never noticed that hot tap water could sound darker than cold one - maybe the sound of heater could be perceived as something sinister -, but I'll pay more attention to this obsrvation that someone wrote on the introductory words of this collaborative release by Berlin-based metamorphic sound artist and performer Nicholas Bussmann (aka Resistance, The Beige Oscillator and Nicholas Desamory, some of his aliases without quoting the plenty of collaborations he made...), who focused on the liminal areas between club music and experimentation, and Wien-based Werner Dafeldecker, whose electroacoustic-driven sound and realistic "environmentalism" crossed many different bodies of human knowledge such as architecture, physics (the name of this collaborative project seems to be a reference to Rydberg atom), photography and cinema. This release is a sort of tuning to the surltry days this couple experienced in Bussmann's recording studio in Kreuzberg during the particularly humid and hot summer of 2013 in Berlin, where weather conditions on the limit of what they can stand inevitably affected their sound, which seems to acquisce in the gloppy perspiration caused by the wet hot air, that got vividly rendered by the slow electronic patterns, the sliding friction of field recordings and the laborious attrition where electric glimmers and samples seem to plod through on the opening "Elevator" - where the field recordings of an elevator got suffocated by thich sonic steams - as well as by the sweaty dub and the amazing analog-driven meshes of the following "Gardening" and the final bath of sweat on the amazing post-techno suite "And The Science", whose sliding running of melting electronic and elements over a set of riding hi and low-hats defines the most fluid (and my favorite) moment of the release. Nice way to turn uncomfortable red-hot days into sound.
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Artist: Sébastien Roux
Title: Inevitable Music #1: Variations On Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #260
Format: 12"
Label: Future Audio Graphics (@)
I was unfamiliar with this French composer and the artist whose work he interprets. According to the label, this album 'employs a group of discrete digital and analog sounds (sustained/pulsed sine tone, sawtooth wave, voice, etc.) that each correspond to one of 20 shapes used in creating LeWitt's instructional wall drawing. Once assigned, these discrete sounds combine to create elegant and rigorous compositions that encourage the listener to reconsider LeWitt's notion that 'the idea becomes a machine that makes the art.'' This sounds much better in theory than in practice. If you remember those old speaker calibration records / CDs that would state '60 Mz sine wave,' and then proceed to run a 60 Mz sine wave before moving on to another waveform, you already have an idea of what you will be hearing. We open with a female voice announcing that we will be hearing sine wave tones and then we hear the tones. Next, we have sung pitch, then square tones, then a combination of sine waves and sung pitch, then sawtooth waves. From an academic perspective, I get what Roux is doing. I get how the ascending pitch and descending pitch is supposed to correspond to the line drawings, and the liner notes are instructive in how to decode this music. But from the standpoint of someone who wants to listen to music, it wasn't very engaging. Side 2 becomes a bit more interesting with the combinations, with 'Variation 7' the most complex and interesting of the tracks. Still, this album is unlikely to spend much time on my turntable. This may be interesting as part of an art installation, but it doesn't really translate well to your living room (unless you happen to be a Sol LeWitt collector). That said, if you like your music really minimal, this may be up your alley. This is mainly for those with a deep interest in conceptual art. This album is limited to 350 copies.
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Artist: Decondition (@)
Title: Sukellan Tuntemattomiin Syvyyksiin
Format: CD
Label: Force Majeure (@)
Rated: *****
I was not familiar with this Finnish artist, but Force Majeure is a sub-label of Nuit Et Brouillard, so this gives some indication of where this is going. Decondition is the work of Helsinki-based Arttu Laine, who had previously released a cassette on Freak Animal Records. Now for some, this may not be the best pedigree coming from a label best known for releasing music celebrating incest and pedophilia, but Decondition is not that kind of musician. This is no small feat in power electronics, but it is always good to find them when you can. The cover art provides a hint of want we will be hearing. This is industrial, in the sense of 'factory assembly line.' Only in this case, the factory has long since been abandoned, but no one bothered to turn off the machines. Parts have begun to rust and creak, but still they go on. Oil drums serve as percussion and everything is awash in static. But this is not all in your face. Tracks like 'Dark Clouds Over My Innerlandscape' show an admirable sense of restraint. Some lack vocals, letting the noise speak for itself, unlike some PE, which is content to have some fuzzed out noise that they can yell over. But where Decondition really shines is toward the end, where the tracks become less agitated and more musical. 'River Of My Emotions Unfolding,' for example, is almost melodic in a harsh sort of way. Sort of how the desert has its own austere beauty. 'Aistiharhojen Luoma Todellisuus (Sukellan Tuntemattomiin Syvyyksiin)' continues this trajectory until we reach the end with 'Deep Sleep In My Dreams,' which has more in common with dark ambient music than power electronics (albeit a gritty kind of dark ambient). In this respect it reminds me a lot of Loss, who creates gorgeous symphonic power electronics. If you're looking for power electronics that pays as much attention to the music as the vocals, this is one to pick up. This album weighs in at around 62 minutes and is limited to 497 copies.
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Artist: The Agromaniac (@)
Title: AM
Format: CD
Label: Ressonus (@)
The Agromaniac is a US-based experimental electronic artist who, according to the label, 'stays strictly in anonymity.' I suppose that may be why I hadn't heard of him (they do reveal the gender at least). The press sheet that came with the disc states that '80% of the sounds on this record were created using a human voice. Besides stunning industrial-techno tracks, 'AM' also offers a proper portion of atmospheric dark ambient pieces' and explains that it is 'loosely inspired by Harlan Ellison's short story 'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.'' Sounds promising, so let's get down to the music. The disc opens with 'And When It Sang To Us, The Earth Shook,' which is pretty stripped down machine-like beats. However, this, along with the next few songs, are a bit too repetitive for my tastes. They seem more like sketches for songs, where you lay down the drum tracks and maybe a bit of synth and then plan to flesh it out later. Only you don't. Had this been the rest of the album, it would have been pretty dull; one of those moments where the idea was cool, but the execution was lacking. It's only when we get to 'Cain' that the compositions become a bit more complex and interesting. However, then we slip right back into the stripped down techno beats in 'Threads.' At times it gets a little weird; 'Growth' sounds like someone trying to create whale songs with feedback. But there are some high points to this album. 'Waste,' 'We Were Silenced,' and 'AM' are much more ambient, with lush drone that was quite pleasant. For me, this was a mixed bag. The Agromaniac is at his best when he really builds up the songs and creates an atmosphere. Of course, some people like repetition (think Plastikman and Sonar, for example), but I like a bit more variety so your mileage may vary. I will be interested to see how this project evolves, since there does seem to be some good potential here.
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